Human Rights Watch welcomes the detailed addendum to this year’s annual report of the UN Special Rapporteur regarding the election-related crackdown on the political opposition, civil society and independent media in Cambodia.
On July 29, a sham election that was neither genuine nor free or fair saw the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) secure its continued rule after arbitrarily dissolving the main opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party; through politically motivated prosecutions of key leaders of the opposition and government critics; by banning more than 100 opposition members, including elected members of parliament, from political activity for five years; by adopting a series of repressive laws aimed at clamping down on the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly; and through illegally utilizing state assets, including the media and armed forces, to create an atmosphere of fear and intimidation. Prime Minister Hun Sen, in power for 33 years, and the CPP have undone all democratic gains since the 1991 Paris Peace Agreements, taking all 125 seats in parliament and creating a de facto one-party state.
Civil and political rights have hit a new low in Cambodia. While we welcome the release of some political prisoners, we remain concerned that without the repeal of repressive laws, such as a lese majeste clause in the Penal Code, the Law on Association and Non-Governmental Organizations (LANGO), the Trade Union Law, and the Law on Political Parties, arbitrary prosecutions in the country’s CPP-controlled courts will continue.
Human Rights Watch is also deeply concerned about the expiration of the MoU for the Cambodia field office of the OHCHR on December 31. The office has been crucial in supporting civil society and addressing rights violations with the government. Its closure would lead to an escalation of abuses. We call on donors and the UN to press the Cambodian government to renew OHCHR’s mandate.
Cambodians are facing a human rights crisis, with all the hard-fought freedoms gained in the past decades under threat. Yet the Council has failed before and since the election to take appropriate action and signal to the Cambodian government and the world that it is aware of the grave nature of the situation. We call on the Council and all UN member states to ensure increased monitoring and reporting by the High Commissioner of the country’s deteriorating human rights situation.