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UN Rights Body Should Increase Scrutiny of Cambodia’s Rights Crackdown

Item 10 Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia

Delegates sit at the opening of the 41th session of the Human Rights Council, at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, June 24, 2019. © 2019 Magali Girardin/Keystone via AP

Cambodia’s human rights situation has dramatically worsened since the last Council resolution on Cambodia in 2019. Human Rights Watch has condemned draconian laws adopted in the past two years under the guise of the Covid-19 pandemic that are among the most restrictive of civil and political rights in the past 30 years. The government has intensified its crackdown on the political opposition, independent media and civil society groups. There are no serious prospects for free and fair elections in upcoming communal and national elections in 2022 and 2023 since Cambodia’s main political opposition party remains dissolved and its leaders in jail, facing political trials or having fled into exile for fear of arbitrary arrest.

In the past two years, the authorities regularly used violence to break up peaceful protests; held mass trials of political opponents, youth, and environmental activists; and harassed independent media outlets, its journalists and critical social media commentors. The government stepped up its efforts to tighten control of the internet and increase online surveillance. In addition to a pending cybercrime bill and existing laws that threaten online freedoms, the government is establishing a National Internet Gateway that allows it to monitor all internet traffic and to disconnect and block internet connections of users, based on vague and undefined grounds, in violation of Cambodia’s international legal obligations.

At this 48th Council session it is imperative that the resolution: reflects the gravity of the human rights situation; renews the mandate of the Special Rapporteur; and mandates oral updates by the Rapporteur at the next two March Council sessions, ahead of the elections.

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