The following is the full statement by Peter Leuprecht, Special Representative
of the Secretary-General for human rights in Cambodia, to the 61st Session of
the Commission on Human Rights, held in Geneva on 19 April,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We all prefer to convey and to receive good rather than bad news. In the
nearly five years I have acted as Special Representative of the
Secretary-General for human rights in Cambodia, I have made every effort to
report objectively on the realities of this country and to help it, through the
endeavours of the international community and my own endeavours, to overcome its
terrible past and to make progress on the way to respect for human rights, rule
of law and pluralistic democracy. Sometimes I felt there was some light at the
end of the Cambodian tunnel, and I reported accordingly. I regret to say that
this time I have little good news to report.
After a political deadlock
that lasted almost a year, a new coalition government was established last July.
The conditions under which this was done are, to say the least, doubtful from
the constitutional and legal point of view and do not demonstrate a willingness
of those in power to abide by the rule of law. Measures taken since against the
opposition violate fundamental principles of pluralist democracy. There is also
a virtual clampdown on freedom of peaceful assembly, and "public space" is
steadily shrinking. What we are witnessing at present unfortunately does not
demonstrate progress on the road to democracy, rule of law and respect for human
rights, but an increasingly autocratic form of government and growing
concentration of power in the hands of the Prime Minister behind a shaky facade
I have repeatedly addressed two interrelated phenomena
that are deeply engrained in the present Cambodian system: impunity and
Impunity is a gangrene that undermines the fabric of
Cambodian society. Although this phenomenon is well-documented, the Prime
Minister and his government persist, in an ostrich-like way, to deny it and to
say it does not exist in Cambodia, but in other countries such as Thailand. The
truth is that mechanisms for accountability are not in place in Cambodia and, as
a result, the rule of law remains elusive.
Impunity fosters endemic
corruption which remains a recurring obstacle in establishing the rule of law
and in achieving economic and social development for all Cambodians and not for
a small minority of politically or economically powerful people.
majority of Cambodians poverty has not been reduced. Most of the population is
clustered around the poverty line. A growing number of people who have nothing
to lose is a leaven of unrest in any society.
The neo-colonial policy of
concessions is a failure and should be reconsidered. It shows no regard for the
human rights and welfare of the people concerned. I had welcomed the Prime
Minister's speech of 18 October 2004, in which he announced that the granting of
further contracts for economic land concessions would be suspended until the
necessary legislation is in place and effective. On this issue, the Prime
Minister has made a spectacular and highly regrettable u-turn, in a speech on 14
March 2005. All information on concessions which strongly affect the lives of
Cambodians should be put in the public domain.
There is one piece of good
news: the long overdue Khmer Rouge trials should begin soon. The Cambodian
people rightly want to know the truth about that horrible period of their
history, and they want justice to be done. The Khmer Rouge tribunal must be a
model of respect for the principles of fair trial. If it is, it could have
positive long-term consequences for the administration of justice in Cambodia.
The corrupt and opaque power structures, inequality before the law,
impunity, collusion and lack of transparency and accountability are among the
main obstacles in the way of genuine democracy, rule of law and human rights -
all human rights for all Cambodians. These obstacles must be tackled and
overcome, and we must see genuine, not lip service efforts on the part of the
Government to do so. Otherwise, liberation from fear and want, proclaimed in the
preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, will remain a perpetually
unfulfilled promise for the people of Cambodia.
community and your Commission are faced with a serious responsibility. To be
useful and effective, to help Cambodians out of the tunnel, the resolution you
will adopt should be based on the facts as they are and not as you would wish
them to be.