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Gov't lashes rights report as 'biased'

Gov't lashes rights report as 'biased'

THE co-Prime Ministers have lambasted a UN human rights report on Cambodia, calling

it "unfair," "unsubstantiated" and politically "biased."

"[The report] includes inaccuracies, lack of evidence, misleading or incomplete

information, an emphasis on the negative aspects of the situation, and a pronounced

bias," Hun Sen and Ung Huot said in a Nov 18 letter addressed to the Special

Representative of the UN Secretary General on Human Rights in Cambodia, Thomas Hammarberg.

The rebuttal came a week after the Special Representative delivered a scathing report,

at the UN, on the progress of human rights in the country.

In an opening address to a UN General Assembly committee Nov 10, Hammarberg voiced

"serious concerns" about political violence, election preparations and

the "continued problem of impunity" in the country.

Citing instances of political violence for which no arrests have been made - including

at least 45 known cases of summary executions and torture since July 2 - Hammarberg

warned that the lack of police action "reinforced the impression of impunity."

While the co-Prime Ministers' four-page response makes a passing reference to the

"40 bodies of officers, who apparently were killed extrajudicially", it

does not refute the charges.

The co-Prime Ministers also failed to respond to Hammarberg's complaint that "no

one has been arrested or prosecuted" in connection with the deadly March 30

attack against a Khmer Nation Party (KNP) rally in Phnom Penh, "[nor] have the

results of the proceedings of the Commission of Inquiry been released to the public."

Nor does the Nov 18 letter address serious allegations of overwhelming circumstantial

evidence directly linking Second Prime Minister Hun Sen's personal bodyguard unit

to the events of March 30.

"Several witnesses indicated that the soldiers protected the escape of two perpetrators...into

a compound...whose access had been sealed off by the soldiers," said Hammarberg

in his report.

The UN report also warned that a "pervasive atmosphere of fear undermines the

very concept of democratic elections," and that "extraordinary measures"

would be required to "rebuild basic trust" between political parties.

The Nov 18 letter dismissed the Special Representative's inquiries into acts of political

violence and intimidation as being based on unsubstantiated "rumors."

Finally, the co-Prime Ministers objected to the UN report's reference to the July's

events as a coup d'état, by calling it a "mischaracterization of the

events," and they accuse Hammarberg of being "biased" toward Prince

Ranariddh.

A Western analyst commented on Monday that the Cambodian government's response was

alarming in both tone and substance.

"It does not seek to be a constructive exercise in improving the UN report,

but it is an attempt at denial that there is in any way, shape or form a problem

that needs to be addressed," he said.

The co-Prime Ministers were not the only government officials to take aim at the

report.

Minister of Justice Chem Snguon defended Cambodia's judiciary against the UN report's

charges that it is politically biased.

"The courts are still independent... neither the Royal Government [nor] the

Ministry of Justice interfere with the functioning of the courts, " he wrote

in a Nov 11 response statement.

The UN report also urged the government to establish a truly independent electoral

commission, ensure the political neutrality of the armed and security forces, and

guarantee fair and equal access to the media for all political parties.

Discounting repeated claims by Ministry of Information officials that technical reasons

prevented the licensing of new FM radio frequencies to political parties as "not

credible," Hammarberg said: "Only a political decision stands in the way

of fair and equal access to the media."

Secretary of State for Information Khieu Kanharith reiterated Nov 17 that FM frequencies

are simply not available and echoed the co-Prime Ministers charge the UN report is

biased.

"I wish we could have a face-to-face [with Hammarberg] in the presence of TV

and radio journalists," he said.

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