CAMBODIA: Interactive Dialogue with the UN Special Representative for human rights in Cambodia

June 14, 2007

A Statement by the Asian Legal Resource Centre

CAMBODIA: Interactive Dialogue with the UN Special Representative for human rights in Cambodia

Joint Oral Intervention by the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (Forum-Asia), the Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC), the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women, the International NGO Forum on Indonesian Development (INFID), and Migrants Rights International and Pax Romana, at the 5th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, during the Interactive Dialogue with the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for human rights in Cambodia, Professor Yash Ghai, on June 12, 2007. The Oral Intervention was presented by: Dr. LAO Mong Hay (ALRC).

To view the online video recording of it, please click here*

We welcome Professor Yash Ghai’s report, which has depicted with accuracy the situation of human rights in Cambodia. We would be very interested to learn from the Special Representative what the Council and the government of Cambodia can do to address this situation and the following questions. There is a serious absence of the rule of law in the country, an absence that is characterized by the Cambodian judiciary’s failure in its constitutional duty to protect the human rights and freedoms of the Cambodian people. Underlying the judiciary’s failure is its lack of independence, despite this being stipulated in Cambodia’s constitution. The absence of the rule of law and judicial independence should be addressed as a matter of priority in order to improve the human rights situation in Cambodia.

How can we have an independent judiciary when almost all judges are affiliated to the ruling party, the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), and, as such, are subject to party disciplinary measures? Recently, Samdech Heng Samrin, the President of the Cambodian National Assembly and Honorary Chairman of the CPP, has said that “nobody, including judges, are without political affiliation,” adding that, “it is hard to find independent [judges].” To cite an important example, the President of the Supreme Court, the Chief Justice, is a member of the permanent and central committees of the ruling party.

How can a justice system protect human rights and freedoms when it is undermined by a system of rule by decree, which is the hallmark of governance in Cambodia? As an illustration, we wish to single out the land-grabbing issue, which Prime Minister Hun Sen has warned could spark a “peasant revolution” and which he is currently handling by waging a so-called “war against land-grabbers” that he has identified as being “CPP officials” and the “people in power.” The government clearly prefers issuing orders to evict occupants of disputed lands and then sending armed police to forcibly evict these occupants, without providing them with any adequate and just compensation, rather than relying on due process and respect for rights. In 2006, nearly 4700 families across the country were subjected to forced evictions.

Does the UN Special Representative agree that the highest priority should be given to ensuring that Cambodia is governed by the rule of law and the respect for human rights, with a judiciary that is independent from any political control? If so, what can the Special Representative and the Council do to ensure that the Cambodian government:

  1. severs judges’ party affiliation;
  2. enacts a law on the statute of judges to guarantee their tenures and protect their independence;
  3. reforms the Supreme Council of the Magistracy, which is responsible for judges’ nominations, independence and discipline, making the council an independent body comprising a greater number of non-judges, that is more accessible to the public, and includes a complaint procedure and compliance mechanisms to enforce its code of ethics for judges, all of which are lacking at the moment;
  4. and, enacts a police law, which Cambodia does not currently have, including provisions for an independent police complaints commission and a code of ethics.

*You need to have RealPlayer installed on your computer in order to watch the video

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About ALRC: The Asian Legal Resource Centre is an independent regional non-governmental organisation holding general consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. It is the sister organisation of the Asian Human Rights Commission. The Hong Kong-based group seeks to strengthen and encourage positive action on legal and human rights issues at local and national levels throughout Asia.


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The Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) works towards the radical rethinking & fundamental redesigning of justice institutions in Asia, to ensure relief and redress for victims of human rights violations, as per Common Article 2 of the International Conventions. Sister organisation to the Asian Human Rights Commission, the ALRC is based in Hong Kong & holds general consultative status with the Economic & Social Council of the United Nations.

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