Since the National Assembly elections of July 2013 that were neither free nor fair, Cambodia has suffered a particularly serious series of human rights violations. These violations have been the result of determined efforts by the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) government of Prime Minister Hun Sen to suppress mass demonstrations against election fraud, strikes by trade unions campaigning for increased wages, and protests all over the country against land-grabbing. Although a political agreement ended the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) boycott of the national assembly in July 2014, it has not resulted in substantial reforms. These remain urgently needed to ensure: future elections will be free and fair; the right to freedom of expression, opinion, peaceful assembly and association; fair trials; the end of impunity for serious abuses; and the end of the security forces’ extreme political partisanship in favor of the CPP and Hun Sen.
In January 2014, the authorities arbitrarily banned all public assemblies. Security forces led by senior CPP officials imposed the ban by applying excessive and unnecessary lethal force against protesters. At least seven people were killed and dozens more injured, before the ban was partly lifted in July. No security force personnel have been held accountable, which should be a government priority.
Instead, the police and CPP-controlled prosecutors and judges have pursued trumped-up cases against at least 70 people: leaders and members of the CNRP, other political groups, trade unions, and other civil society organizations, plus ordinary factory workers.
At least 44 people have sentenced to prison after unfair trials at which no credible evidence of guilt was presented. Although 30 of these received suspended sentences, the message of vulnerability to imprisonment at government whim was clearly sent. All these convictions should be quashed. Similar allegations in pending court cases against at least 26 people also appear to be politically motivated and lacking in a factual basis. Where the authorities have no credible evidence of a legally cognizable offense, charges should be dropped and the accused immediately and unconditionally released from custody.
The UN Human Rights Council should continue to closely scrutinize the human rights situation in Cambodia through the work of the Special Rapporteur, and should call on Cambodian authorities to implement the substantive reforms needed to protect human rights and advance democratic governance in the country.