Laila Matar’s statement for Human Rights Watch at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland on September 28, 2016.
Cambodia should take urgent action to fulfill commitments of Paris Peace Agreements
Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Cambodia
Human Rights Watch | 28 September 2016
Over the past year, Prime Minister Hun Sen and his Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) have significantly escalated their targeting of Cambodia’s political opposition, human rights defenders, social activists, and public intellectuals. They appear intent on eliminating all opposition and independent voices and undoing most of what has been accomplished in Cambodia since the Paris Peace Agreements were signed 25 years ago.
Hun Sen and other government officials rely on the CPP-controlled judiciary to imprison peaceful critics, while the security forces threaten, intimidate and assault those deemed to be government opponents. These abuses appear aimed at ensuring a CPP victory in local and national elections scheduled for 2017 and 2018, thereby safeguarding CPP power and the economic interests of its leadership.
The Paris Agreements committed Cambodia “to ensure respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms” in the country and “to support the right of all Cambodian citizens to undertake activities that would promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms.” They committed the 18 other signatories – including all P-5 members, Japan, Australia, and most members of ASEAN -- “to promote and encourage respect for and observance of human rights… to prevent the recurrence of human rights abuses.”
We call upon Cambodia, the Human Rights Council, the Paris signatories, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Special Rapporteur on Cambodia to take urgent action to fulfill these commitments. All politically motivated criminal charges and convictions should be dropped or overturned, including those against opposition leaders Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha, other members of parliament, staff of the internationally respected human rights organization ADHOC, and the Boeung Kak land rights activists. The recent assassination of political commentator Kem Ley – yet another in a long line of political killings – is yet another reminder of how fragile the situation is and the need for concerted international efforts to avoid Cambodia reverting to a one-party state where bullets are more important than ballots.
In her report to this Session, the Special Rapporteur recommends that the government review outstanding recommendations by the Special Rapporteur, treaty bodies and states. We support this and would ask the Special Rapporteur: what is your assessment of the status of implementation of your recommendations? We would also encourage the Special Rapporteur to address, in her next report, the implementation of recommendations by Cambodia of various UN bodies and to identify benchmarks for progress.