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UN and Govt at odds on rights report

UN and Govt at odds on rights report

T HE government has sent another thinly veiled warning to the United Nations Center

for Human Rights, accusing Special Representative Michael Kirby of inappropriate,

unclear and unfounded assertions and of acting like a policeman.

In a letter in response to Kirby's latest report on Cambodia, Royal Government Secretary

General Nady Tan complained that the report included allegations "contradictory

with the reality."

He wrote that the report also did not reflect the "unchanging and firm commitment"

of the government toward human rights.

Tan's letter will be included in the report, to be presented to the UN General Assembly

on Nov 27, as the official government response.

It was the first direct government statement on the UNCHR since the Prime Ministers'

request in March that the center be "phased out" of Cambodia from the end

of this year.

In his report, Kirby - who is the UN Secretary General's Special Representative on

human rights in Cambodia, supported by UNCHR staff - criticizes a lack of government

response to his previous human rights recommendations.

He listed 19 "confidential" letters of recommendation on human rights issues

he had sent the government between Aug 1994-Aug 1995, at least 15 of which elicited

no final response or action by the government.

On other formal, public recommendations made in his five previous reports to the

General Assembly, "an initial assessment suggests that most of the recommendations...remain

to be implemented."

While noting the difficulties and lack of resources faced by the Royal Government

in re-establishing Cambodia's civil and legal systems, Kirby wrote that "Notwithstanding

[these] considerations, the failure of the government of Cambodia to acknowledge

and respond to the recommendations and reports of the Special Representative is less

than satisfactory."

Kirby's report made a raft of new recommendations, covering a wide range of areas

such as housing, press freedoms, the judiciary and children's rights.

It also referred to the expulsion of former Funcinpec MP Sam Rainsy from the National

Assembly and threatened expulsions of other MPs. In a section titled 'Right to be

elected and to take part in government', Kirby urged that "the expulsion of

members of the National Assembly, upon their removal [from] political parties...should

cease." He also called for establishment of the Constitutional Council "without

further delay."

Nady Tan, in the government's letter of response, said he had hoped that information

provided by government officials would have given Kirby "a better understanding"

of the human rights situation.

Tan wrote that Kirby's report contained allegations against the government which

were contradictory to reality and outdated, and used words which were "not appropriate

and consistent with the political will and efforts made by the Royal government in

the implementation of and improvement" of human rights.

Some of Kirby's criticisms were "unclear and non-specific" and others appeared

to be based "only on rumor and hearsay."

Tan listed 14 areas of Kirby's report which the government disagreed with and asked

for amendments to be made.

He expressed particular disappointment that Kirby "seemed not to be satisfied"

over Rainsy's expulsion from the National Assembly and "still [included] this

matter in his report."

Tan concluded by saying that, while the government appreciated Kirby's efforts, his

report "should be written in a balanced manner."

The government had the impression that Kirby was acting as an "authoritative

law enforcement officer", while not providing "enough technical assistance"

to help improve human rights.

Kirby, an Australian judge who visits Cambodia periodically, is expected to raise

Tan's letter with the government when he next visits in January.

The UNCHR's Cambodia-based director, Daniel Premont, however, said this week the

letter did not symbolize a deterioration in relations with the government.

The main differences between UNCHR and the government related to "protocal and

interpretation of the facts", Premont said, and "there is no real disagreement

on the recommendations...it's a good development."

The center's current mandate expires in March next year, and Premont has previously

said that "if Cambodia wants us to leave, we will leave immediately."

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