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NGOs urge UN action on human rights

UN Special Rapporteur Rhona Smith speaks to the media at the United Nation’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights during a press conference in Phnom Penh earlier this year.
UN Special Rapporteur Rhona Smith speaks to the media at the United Nation’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights during a press conference in Phnom Penh earlier this year. Pha Lina

NGOs urge UN action on human rights

Twelve NGOs have issued an open letter to the UN Human Rights Council urging it to adopt a strong resolution on what they term the grave deterioration of the human rights situation in Cambodia.

With UN Special Rapporteur on Cambodia Rhona Smith due to present her findings to the council at its 33rd session next month, the 12 signatories (including Human Rights Watch, Licadho, Cambodian Center for Human Rights and Adhoc) have requested the council to call on the government to release political prisoners; repeal the NGO, trade union and telecommunications laws, which they say fall short of international standards; and put an end to “serious violations” of human rights.

The letter also asks that Smith – who recently came under criticism for her perceived inaction – be requested to conduct an assessment of Cambodia’s implementation of rights reforms recommended by UN bodies.

Nicolas Agostini, who coordinated the letter as the International Federation for Human Rights’ representative to the UN, said that such an assessment is within Smith’s mandate and is called for in light of the upcoming 25th anniversary of the Paris Peace Accords.

“We do hope that states will now collectively send a message to the Cambodian government that it will not be allowed to destroy the last remnants of the Paris Peace Agreements,” Agostini said.

Government spokesman Phay Siphan said Cambodia is unlikely to heed any such resolution, declaring sovereignty to be more important than any rights conventions.

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