The government on Tuesday said it had “noted” 25 recommendations made by the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR), saying they were part of a political agenda and linked to the dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP).
It accepted the other 173 recommendations that were raised.
Cambodian Human Rights Committee (CHRC) spokesperson Chin Malin said on Wednesday that the 25 noted recommendations had raised case-by-case issues regarding Cambodian politics, including the dissolution of the former CNRP.
Also raised was the treason charge brought against its president Kem Sokha, the Supreme Court verdict that banned 118 members of the party from politics after its disbanding and a perceived restriction of political rights.
“We cannot accept these recommendations because what happened in connection to the CNRP, its leaders and members were legal actions taken in a democratic society."
“We cannot accept them and we cannot implement them because they go against Cambodia’s laws and violate Supreme Court rulings. Some recommendations told us to release the opposition leader, reinstate the CNRP and allow its banned members to return to politics,” he said.
Chin Malin said only a few countries had raised the 25 recommendations, such as the US and allies like the UK. He said around 20 recommendations concerned the CNRP and the rest political law.
CHRC issued a press release on Tuesday saying it had noted 25 recommendations out of the 198 raised by 73 countries at the UPR session held in Geneva on January 30. CHRC said its decision came after consultations with relevant government institutions and stakeholders.
It said Cambodia accepted 173 recommendations as they were in line with the will, policies and reforms of the government of Cambodia in all sectors in its mission to defend the nation and promote the human rights and freedom of its citizens.
“The 25 recommendations are noted because they do not reflect the reality of human rights respect and freedom in Cambodia. Also, they do not reflect the efforts made by the government."
“These recommendations particularly cannot be implemented because they are against the law, constitution and legal procedures of Cambodia. [These recommendations] were raised under the umbrella of a political agenda, rather than on technical aspects [concerning the] principles of freedom and human rights enforcement in a democratic society,” it said.
CHRC said it had already sent a response to the UN regarding the decision in order that it would be approved at the 41st regular session of the Human Rights Council in July.
It said it would organise meetings with relevant institutions and NGOs to find the mechanisms to implement the 173 accepted recommendations.
Chak Sopheap, the executive director of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights (CCHR), said the exact content of the noted recommendations was unknown to her at this stage.
CCHR nevertheless encouraged the government to seriously consider those 25 recommendations. She said the government could still take steps to implement some of them in order to improve the human rights situation in the country.
“We encourage the Royal Government of Cambodia to ensure the effective implementation of those recommendations in the coming years in order to ensure the full protection of all human rights throughout Cambodia."
“At this stage of the UPR process, civil society can also participate by consulting and cooperating with stakeholders in order to ensure the implementation of recommendations, as well as by monitoring its implementation,” she said.
Kem Sokha, who co-founded the CNRP, was arrested in September 2017 and charged with conspiring with a foreign power to oust the government.
His arrest led to the Supreme Court dissolution of the CNRP more than two months later and the banning of 118 high-ranking party officials from politics for five years.
Released on bail in September last year, after more than a year in detention at Trapaing Phlong prison in Tbong Khmum province, Sokha has since remained at his home under court supervision.