Almost a quarter of a century after Human Rights Commission Resolution 93/6 spoke of the need for “special measures to assure the protection of human rights,” including a Special Rapporteur and a Cambodia office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, these remain sadly necessary. Indeed, Cambodia is rapidly reverting to a de facto one-party state characterized by attacks on the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly.
The courts are used to intimidate, detain and try peaceful critics and opposition party members. A thin veneer of democratic norms is presented through fundamentally unfair elections stage-managed by the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), headed by Prime Minister Hun Sen. Earlier this year, Hun Sen passed the 30-year mark in power.
The past two years have seen a sharp deterioration in civil and political rights. The government has deployed security forces that used excessive lethal force to suppress demonstrations. It has passed new election legislation including restrictions on campaign freedoms. It rammed through parliament the Law on Associations and Non-Governmental Organizations that plainly is intended to silence civil society groups – thereby undermining one of the true achievement of the past two decades. It has proposed draconian laws regulating the Internet and trade unions.
Meanwhile it has launched politically motivated prosecutions and threats of prosecutions of opposition parliamentarians and activists, 27 of whom have either been imprisoned on trumped-up charges, are in detention pending trial in politically biased courts, or have been targeted for unwarranted criminal investigation because of their legitimate political activities. All of this has left Cambodia’s brave human rights activists feeling like they are under siege.
We call on the Council to adopt a strong resolution that reflects the seriousness of the situation in Cambodia. This is no time for complacency or a pro forma debate. We urge members to offer their full and clear support to the new Special Rapporteur, who in turn needs to more vigorously use her mandate and the resources of the OHCHR field office to address key issues such as the lack of independence of the judiciary and ongoing impunity for perpetrators of human rights violations.