UN HRC: Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Cambodia

Item 10 Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Cambodia

Oral Statement

28 September 2016

Delivered by Andrew Smith, ARTICLE 19

Mr. President,

ARTICLE 19 agrees with the Special Rapporteur that democratic space continues to shrink in Cambodia.

We are gravely concerned at the continuing abuse of laws to restrict the legitimate exercise of the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association, in particular by outspoken civil society organizations. This is combined with a concerning trend of pervasive impunity for abuses and violations of the rights of environmental human rights defenders.

Attacks on Cambodia’s environmental human rights defenders have been prevalent in 2016. In addition to the July murder of environmental HRD Mr. Kem Ley, at least 12 other environmental HRDs have been attacked or threatened for speaking out against environmental degradation as a consequence of the illegal activities of powerful logging and extractive companies, and the alleged complicity of public officials therewith. The safety and security for environmental HRDs conducting their work has markedly deteriorated in 2016, which has increased fear and had a considerable chilling effect on freedom of expression.

ARTICLE 19 calls for independent, speedy and effective investigations and prosecutions for all attacks and violence against environmental HRDs, and full redress for victims, including Mr. Kem Ley’s family. Public authorities, including at the highest levels, must unequivocally condemn such attacks where they occur, and institute prevention and protection policies to avoid their recurrence.

National laws impacting on these rights must be urgently reformed. We call on the government of Cambodia to heed the Special Rapporteur’s recommendation regarding the Criminal Code; in our view the repeal of several provisions is necessary to ensure against the judicial harassment of individuals, in particular HRDs, for their legitimate expression.

We also reiterate the Special Rapporteur’s recommendation that the government publicly disseminate drafts of new laws and call for this to be at the earliest possibility.  Fully transparent and inclusive processes must be instituted to guarantee effective and meaningful public participation in consultations on such laws, to ensure their compliance with international human rights law. ARTICLE 19 expects no less than this in relation to the anticipated but as yet unseen Cybercrime and Access to Information Laws.

Given the deterioration in respect for the right to freedom of expression in Cambodia in the last year, we ask the Special Rapporteur how the international community and this Council can maintain pressure on the government to reverse this trend, and in particular address the problem of impunity.

Thank you.