Cambodia has submitted a report on the enforcement of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to the UN Human Rights Committee (UNHRC), with a government official saying some people did not properly understand the convention, leading them to overstep boundaries when exercising their rights.
The Cambodian Human Rights Committee (CHRC) on Thursday said the fifth ICCPR report was submitted on Monday via the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. Cambodia has been an ICCPR member state since 1992.
In the last report submitted in 2015, the Kingdom was given 31 recommendations from the UN Human Rights Committee to implement.
“This report is to show the progress in the enforcement of this convention by relevant institutions, including responses, explanations and clarifications to some accusations that were not in line with the reality [of the situation]."
“The report shows difficulties and mechanisms to be implemented in facing those challenges,” said CHRC spokesperson Chin Malin.
He said the content of the report responded to the 31 recommendations Cambodia received from the UNHRC, which covered all aspects of rights, including the right to justice, the right of assembly and to rally and hold demonstrations, and the right of expression.
They also included housing and land rights, and the rights of specific groups such as women, children, people with disabilities and ethnic minority groups.
Chin Malin said relevant government institutions had shown progress.
“The rights to assembly, demonstration, opinion and expression . . . all of these the Ministry of Interior has shown in its legal enforcement."
“The Ministry of Interior, which is that part of the government in charge of social security, had explained events in the past which were regarded as restrictions on the freedoms of assembly and demonstration,” Malin said giving an example of what was in the report.
The ministry, he said, had stressed that such legal measures that were enforced were to safeguard social security and public order.
Malin said Cambodia had many policies and laws, but some needed reviewing to make them consistent with international human rights principles.
“Another challenge is human resources, particularly that some of our law enforcement officials have not properly understood the conventions and treaties on the principles of human rights. This leads to practices beyond the law."
Malin said another challenge was people’s limited understanding of the law. He said that when people did not understand the law and basic human rights principles, it made them enjoy their rights beyond the principles of freedom, ending in them violating the law. They then faced legal action.
‘Up for committee review’
Simon Walker, the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) representative in Cambodia, said the government’s ICCPR report would be reviewed by the Human Rights Committee in Geneva in a meeting expected to take place next year.
The committee is made up of 18 experts in civil and political rights elected by governments but acting independently.
“It is up to the committee to review the government’s report and make conclusions on the government’s performance as well as recommendations which are made public,” he said.
He said the committee was also informed by information provided by the UN, including the OHCHR, as well as by reports submitted by civil society organisations.
Political analyst Lao Mong Hay said he was of the view that serious human rights violations were “beyond dispute”.
He said the failure to prevent them stemmed from the inability to establish an independent judiciary whose task, as clearly spelt out in the 1991 Paris Peace Agreements, is “to enforce the rights provided under the constitution”.
“So in order to improve the human rights situation, the priority is to establish an independent judiciary, starting off with banning all judges and prosecutors from being members of any political party and from engaging in any political activity,” he said.
On Tuesday, the government 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.