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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Government deflects blame over lack of human rights committee

Keo Remy, head of the government’s Cambodian Human Rights Committee (CHRC), speaks to the press after giving a speech on the Kingdom's human rights sitatuation yesterday in Phnom Penh.
Keo Remy, head of the government’s Cambodian Human Rights Committee (CHRC), speaks to the press after giving a speech on the Kingdom's human rights sitatuation yesterday in Phnom Penh. Hong Menea

Government deflects blame over lack of human rights committee

Officials from the government’s Cambodian Human Rights Committee (CHRC) yesterday appeared to lay the blame for the delayed establishment of an independent rights body at the feet of civil society.

The institution, which would promote human rights awareness and be politically independent, has long been called for by observers, including the former UN Special Rapporteur.

While Prime Minister Hun Sen backed the creation of a National Human Rights Institution (NHRI) in 2006, CHRC Deputy Director Ith Rady yesterday told some 200 social science students that a draft law to establish the body had been held up due to disagreements between NGOs and the government.

“We let the representatives of NGOs draft the bill and until now, the draft has been drafted, but the discussion [with] NGOs has not found a compromise yet,” Rady said.

His fellow deputy director, Chet Chealy, also blamed a rotating door of civil society representatives used to debate the drafted legislation.

“We hand the duty to the civil society since they usually criticise us, [saying] that we do not respect the human rights, so [we said] you draft the bill then,” he said.

“It has been 10 years already and nothing has been done. Sometimes, this person leads and sometimes another person leads no one takes the responsibility.”

Katta Orn, another member of CHRC, said that the second draft submitted by NGOs gave “too much power to the [NHRI] body”.

Chak Sopheap, of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, said NGOs were still working on the draft legislation but declined to comment further.

Licadho’s Am Sam Ath said draft talks had been postponed, but could not give reasons why.

“There are many NGOs [involved] and we have different views, so I could not answer for them,” he said.

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John Lowrie's picture

It is true that some blame can be attached to NGOs for the lack of progress in establishing a genuine independent national mechanism. The reason is simple and understandable. It is a matter of trust. There must be complete faith in the people and processes. Principles must not be sacrificed for party political or other private purposes. In essence, to work properly, a National Human Rights Committee must uphold international standards of justice, in exactly the same way that Cambodia's courts and law enforcement institutions should but don't. So far the government denies this and resolutely opposes all criticisms, especially the one of interference by the executive, instead of the clear separation of powers that is also enshrined in the Cambodian Constitution. Until that key fault is remedied, NGOs and in particular their top leaders, cannot in all conscience compromise and accept roles on joint bodies.

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