(New York) – Cambodia has brushed aside calls at the UN Human Rights Council to reverse its crackdown on human rights and reform its abusive policies and practices, Human Rights Watch said today. Cambodia’s partners in the international community should redouble their pressure for Phnom Penh to address the many abuses the UN review process brought forward.
Cambodia was responding to recommendations by other governments at its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) session on June 26, 2014, at the UN Human Rights Council. The UPR is a rights review mechanism through which all UN member states are examined once every four years.
“Faced with an upsurge in demands for fundamental changes to ensure respect for human rights, the government of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has instead dug in his heels,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “The international community should not acquiesce to the Cambodian government’s use of political violence, imprisonment of opponents on politically motivated charges, torture, and restrictions on free speech and public assembly.”
In a move that is tantamount to rejection, Cambodia merely “noted” that it had received a litany of recommendations addressing core human rights problems. Among issues deflected were calls for the government to end its arbitrary suspension of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and of actions to ensure media freedom, including internet freedom, and calls for no one to be detained or imprisoned due to their exercise of their right to freedom of expression.
Other governments’ recommendations that fell on deaf ears in Phnom Penh included that Cambodia end unfair trials, and take actions to create a more favorable human rights environment for opposition party members, human rights defenders, journalists, and activists. Cambodia also sidestepped demands to investigate recent incidents of excessive use of fatal force by security units, end impunity for such illegal violence, and take legal and institutional reforms to put an end to torture.
The Cambodia government also snubbed recommendations to end other abuses, to protect land rights as stipulated by Cambodia’s constitution and to cooperate more fully with UN human rights experts and mechanisms.
In its presentation on June 26, Cambodia also reneged on its earlier acceptance of four recommendations, including one calling on it specifically “to protect free and independent media” and three relating to the education of children.
Justifying the government’s position, Cambodia’s mission to the UN in Geneva said it had withheld acceptance of the noted recommendations because they might not “reflect the situation on the ground” or not be “in line with the national, regional situation.” It asserted the rejected recommendations were “contrary to the laws and Constitution of Cambodia.”
On June 27, Chheang Vun, a spokesman for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, said: “We have taken into account their recommendations on some laws already, but what we don’t listen to them … what we don’t accept from them cannot be applied in Cambodia, because Cambodian society is not theirs.” He said Cambodia opposed suggestions that would force “state institutions to become barricaded” off from acting against other parties or individuals protesting against the government.
“Prime Minister Hun Sen and those speaking on his behalf have shown their true colors in this process, ignoring serious recommendations and falling back on a false exceptionalism to justify their continued rights abuses,” Adams said. “Foreign donors who give so much assistance to Cambodia should jointly use their influence to push for the government to end its reliance on human rights violations to control the country.”