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HRW slams NGO Law, court cases in report

HRW slams NGO Law, court cases in report

In what has become a yearly tradition, Human Rights Watch levelled a broadside of criticisms at the Cambodian government yesterday, accusing it in its annual report of enacting “draconian” legislation and granting itself broad “arbitrary powers” to suppress dissent.

The global report’s Cambodia section details a litany of alleged abuses including, among other things, the suppression of civil society, the jailing of more than a dozen opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party activists, the mob bashing of two CNRP lawmakers and the pursuit of politically motivated court cases against party members, including leader Sam Rainsy.

“Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government launched new assaults on human rights in Cambodia” in 2015, the report reads, before going on to accuse Hun Sen personally of “increasingly undermin[ing] human rights”.

The government’s controversial NGO Law received particular attention in the report, which characterised it as giving authorities broad powers to “arbitrarily deny NGOs registration and shut them down”.

“The law is aimed at critical voices in civil society . . . Its restrictions on the right to freedom of expression go well beyond the permissible limitations allowed by international human rights law,” it reads.

Also mentioned was a telecommunications law pushed through the National Assembly that, according to the report, “gives government arbitrary powers” to secretly monitor telecommunications.

The report also spends considerable time outlining government non-cooperation in the Khmer Rouge tribunal’s Cases 003 and 004, and the government’s repeated detention of “undesirables” at Phnom Penh’s notorious Prey Speu social affairs centre.

CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann yesterday said that the report “reflects the reality in Cambodian society”, and added that his party would take steps to curtail restrictive legislation once it had “enough power”.

The report comes just over a year after 30 Years of Hun Sen, a HRW report that detailed decades’ worth of allegations of abuses against the premier.

“Instead of devoting his time as prime minister to equitably improving the health, education, and standard of living of the Cambodian people, Hun Sen has been linked to a wide range of serious human rights violations,” that report reads.

Spokespeople for the government could not be reached to respond to the accusations yesterday, however the prime minister himself has in the past accused HRW Asia director Brad Adams of being biased against him.

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