Press briefing notesOffice of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
Cambodia: Türk urges ‘new course’ to ensure free and fair vote
16 June 2023
Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Jeremy Laurence
UN Human Rights Chief Volker Türk today urged the Cambodian Government to act swiftly to enable and protect a conducive environment for a free and fair general election next month, saying he was deeply concerned by the curtailing of civic space ahead of the poll.
“Ahead of the election, there must be an open and pluralistic environment that guarantees the rights to freedom of expression and opinion, and freedom of assembly and association. These elements lie at the core of open and free societies as envisaged by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said.
The National Election Commission (NEC) earlier this year disqualified the Candlelight Party (CLP) and Khmer United Great Nation Party from running for election while long prison sentences had been handed down against other opposition figures. Under international law, all citizens have an equal right to stand for election, a right that may only be subjected to restrictions that are objective, reasonable, and non-discriminatory.
Heavy fines have been imposed on other political actors, such as Son Chhay the Vice-President of CLP, who was ordered to pay over USD one million in fines and compensation to the National Election Committee (NEC) and the ruling Cambodian People’s Party for defamation.
And this week, thePrime Minister said the Government would amend the election law to bar anyone who boycotts the vote, or encourages others to do so, from running as a candidate in future elections. Such an amendment, if enacted, would constitute an overbroad restriction on the right to freedom of expression and a breach of the right of all citizens to stand for election, guaranteed by the Constitution of Cambodia and international human rights instruments.
Human rights defenders, trade unionists and political activists reportedly face legal sanctions for having exercised their rights to freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly or association protected by international human rights instruments, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights ratified by Cambodia in 1992.
“The Paris Peace Agreement and international human rights treaties are the guarantors of peace, prosperity and a better future for Cambodia,” said Türk.
“I urge Cambodia’s leadership to change course now to enable a vibrant civil society, a space for open debate and respect for human rights.”
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