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National human rights institution establishment one step closer

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CHRC holds an online discussion of the draft law on the National Human Rights Institution. CHRC

National human rights institution establishment one step closer

The Cambodian Human Rights Committee (CHRC) has finished the first draft of the law on the establishment of the National Human Rights Institution and will continue discussions with other relevant parties soon to finalise the bill.

The National Human Rights Institution will be established by the government via statute but is intended to be an independent body that can assess the human rights situation in Cambodia and offer recommendations and expert advice.

CHRC spokesman Chin Malin said on June 1 that some revisions to the first draft were being discussed internally. They held a meeting on May 31 to discuss the draft and allow members to provide input on it.

“The CHRC’s working group will revise this draft law further after these internal discussions. The group will examine the possibility of consulting with other relevant stakeholders including civil society organisations, inter-ministerial institutions, higher education institutions, legal professionals and the courts,” he said.

He added that due to the Covid-19 situation the group was considering the use of online or remote meeting platforms to hold these discussions.

Malin continued that the group wished to finish the draft law soon, but discussions with outside parties could take a lot of time because the law is important. He said that when the final version is approved it should be broad enough in scope to cover the various concerns of all relevant parties.

According to the CHRC, the work on drafting this bill started in September 2019 when a working group was set up to prepare it. The creation of the body follows recommendations through the UN’s Universal Periodic Review.

The CHRC has been given the task to lead and coordinate the establishment of the draft law. It will include some contents from both national and international laws as its basis in order to accelerate discussions and consultation procedures for approval. In the first draft, the bill has seven chapters and 27 articles.

Chak Sopheap, executive director of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights (CCHR), said that given the current human rights and political environment in Cambodia, it remained to be seen whether a fully independent National Human Rights Institution can be established in line with international standards – including the Paris Principles which set out the minimum requirements for such bodies to be considered credible and to operate effectively.

“Of paramount importance is the requirement of independence – first and foremost – from governments, which is directly linked to any NHRI’s [National Human Rights Institution] effectiveness,” she said.

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