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Robinson attacks 'pervasive' rights abuses

Robinson attacks 'pervasive' rights abuses

robin.jpg
robin.jpg

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson said the issues of

corruption and impunity for the rich and powerful "must be tackled" in

Cambodia.

High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson.

In an interview with the Post during her August 20-22 visit, Robinson said that leaving

senior Khmer Rouge cadres unpunished was one example of such impunity, but it was

abuses of power taking place today that were most significant.

"The impunity that affects people in their daily lives is much more penetrating,"

she said. "It's that pimps are never brought to justice and there's corruption

in the police and the judiciary, etc. It's pervasive."

In a meeting with Prime Minister Hun Sen, Robinson said she stressed the need for

judicial independence and structural reform of the Supreme Council of Magistracy,

the body that oversees the judiciary.

"I pointed out that Cambodia has ratified the Covenant on Civil and Political

Rights and therefore has a legal obligation to provide independent judicial redress,"

she said.

The High Commissioner said she had made similar remarks on the importance of an independent

judiciary to King Sihanouk during a trip to Beijing before coming to Cambodia.

She also addressed other human rights abuses including the sexual exploitation of

minors. Speaking after a visit to Afesip, a shelter for trafficked women, Robinson

said meeting people at the shelter had brought home the complexity of the problem.

"Not least there needs to be a cultural change in not having so many Cambodian

men, including at a high level, getting sexual gratification from young girls."

She stated there was also a need to combat trafficking through better coordination

with donors and other countries.

"I know [the government] is proposing a Memorandum of Understanding with Vietnam

and Thailand and this is an essential component," she said. "China should

also be a factor because my understanding of the problem is that it is worsened by

the fact that there is now a Mafia element entering [trafficking]."

During her address to the National Assembly, she referred again to the "repugnant

trafficking in human beings" and urged members to work with the UN and the international

community to bring it to a halt.

"Traffickers are able to operate with impunity because of inefficient law enforcement,

compounded in some cases by official corruption," she said, adding that those

who had been trafficked were victims, not criminals.

"I can only say I regret the Cambodian court verdict of 5 August, which charged

victims of trafficking with illegal migration and issued them prison sentences."

Robinson also met Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng while she was in Phnom Penh, and

spoke about her concern over the recent disappearances of a dissident Vietnamese

monk and two Chinese Falun Gong practitioners, who are believed to have been forcibly

returned to their native countries.

"I had an assurance from him that he will follow up further and see if there

is any information he can provide to the office," she said.

Robinson last visited Cambodia as High Commissioner in January 1998. She will finish

her term September 11 and be replaced by Sergio Vieira de Mello, who worked in Cambodia

at the UN refugee agency during UNTAC.

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