Reaction to human rights resolution on Cambodia

42nd Session of the UN Human Rights Council
Response to resolution on Cambodia

CIVICUS welcomes the renewal of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Cambodia in a resolution which was passed by consensus today. As the country’s human rights situation is deteriorating and space for freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association is decreasing, international scrutiny is more important than ever. 

However, the resolution was also a missed opportunity for the Human Rights Council to push for substantive change on the ground. At a time when the human rights situation in the country is regressing, a strong resolution providing for enhanced monitoring and reporting mechanisms would have shown that the Council will not accept sustained violations of fundamental freedoms. 

‘This resolution does not go far enough towards bringing to account the perpetrators of human rights violations, or to provide a remedy for victims and their families,’ said Lisa Majumdar, Advocacy Officer with CIVICUS. 

‘Cambodia’s human rights situation has deteriorated over the past four years and international action so far has been inadequate. This resolution could have an important moment to step up scrutiny of the authorities and show Cambodian human rights defenders that they are not alone.  Instead it sends a signal that the Cambodian government can continue to violate rights with impunity’, said Lisa Majumdar.

We welcome the acknowledgement in the resolution of the ‘chilling effect’ over civil society and independent voices following the murder of human rights defender and analyst Dr Kem Ley, although disappointed that the resolution did not name him, and we reiterate calls for a full, independent and transparent investigation into his death. Such a chilling affect has been compounded by repressive laws, misuse of the justice system, online and offline intimidation, and the shutdown of independent media outlets.

However, we are concerned by references in the resolution to Cambodia’s ‘efforts and progress’ in enforcing basic laws such as the criminal code and the criminal procedure code. Not only should this be a baseline standard to meet, but there are multiple cases of Cambodian courts continuing to misuse both laws in order to judicially harass and in some cases imprison human rights defenders, land activists, and opposition supporters. Cambodia’s manipulation of the justice system to serve political goals should be the subject of reform, not praise.

The Special Rapporteur on Cambodia presented her latest report to the Council earlier this week. The report detailed the regression in the country’s political situation as well as some steps it has taken towards meeting sustainable development goals and outlining recommendations. 

We call on the Cambodian government to restore full fundamental freedoms in line with the report's recommendations, and to implement recommendations from its UPR held earlier this year.