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Impunity tops agenda for special rapporteur

Impunity tops agenda for special rapporteur

A UN special rapporteur will take the cause of Cambodia’s land-eviction battles and the abuses faced by those waging them to the UN Human Rights Council, according to a report released today.

Michel Forst, the special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, will file a report with the UN body focusing on the impunity enjoyed by intimidators who silence land protesters and associated rights workers.

“I will more generally continue to focus on the protection of land rights defenders, insisting on the need to increase accountability,” he says in the annual land defenders report from the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH).

FIDH consists of 178 rights organisations. Locally, Adhoc, the Cambodian Center for Human Rights and Licadho contributed to the report, which highlights incidents where Cambodia’s authorities have failed to find justice for activists.

For example, it says, “no serious investigation has taken place to clarify the circumstances and seek justice for the extra-judicial killing of Mr Chut Wutty”, the conservationist gunned down in 2012.

It also notes that Vann Sophath, a CCHR worker, filed a complaint after receiving death threats monitoring a land dispute in May.

“As of August … no court action had been undertaken and he was not granted any protection measures,” the report says.

In more than 100 cases of intimidation against rights defenders documented globally from 2011 to August this year, 95 per cent remain unpunished, the reports says. These include killings, disappearances, threats and physical attacks.

“Perpetrators may be local or federal state officials, such as police officers and members of the military or non-state actors, such as company employees, paramilitaries or henchmen paid by companies or politicians,” the report says.

But Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said the government was committed to rule of law for all. While activists had the right to protest, “demonstrations often don’t help,” he said, adding that policymakers should solve issues at the grassroots level.

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