Cambodia's Permanent Mission to the UN (CPM) denounced statements put out by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), accusing the entity on Monday of violating its own mandate.
The statement, made on May 11 by the spokesman of OHCHR, expressed disappointment over the sentencing of 11 opposition supporters who stand accused of “insurrection” over a protest in July 2014 that turned violent. The statement also alleges that the court system has been used to shut down the CNRP, civil society organisations and dissident.
However, the CPM responded in a statement, saying: “Permanent Mission of Cambodia to the UN Office at Geneva is dismayed to see that the OHCHR is overstepping its mandate . . . nothing contained in the present charter authorises the United Nations to intervene in matters within individual states.”
“There is no single provision assigning the OHCHR as a monitor to name and shame Cambodian institution’s performances . . . not only does the OHCHR ignore the above mentioned principles but blatantly oversteps its mandates by interfering in Cambodia’s domestic affairs,” the statement added.
On May 10, the Appeal Court upheld a verdict convicting the 11 CNRP supporters over the protest. Subsequently, the OHCHR’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) released a statement condemning the action, which was downed by CPM.
“Its opinion reflects only its own view and not that of the UN. Hence, it carries no legal weight, bears no legal binding on a sovereign state and is not entitled to enforcement. Therefore, it is wrong to mislead the public that the WGAD’s opinion is that of the UN’s,” it said.
The statement also said the Permanent Mission is of the view the WGAD’s conduct undermined its principle of objectivity and independence.
“There is not a single word in the opinion stating that the UN has told the Cambodian government that it must release him or shall release him as stated”.
The statement said the Permanent Mission finds that the NGO’s and media’s agenda is nothing but to manipulate and politicise the WGAD’s opinion so as to dismiss Cambodia’s strengthening of the rule of law.
According to the WGAD’s mandate, written on their webpage, they “act on information submitted regarding alleged cases of arbitrary detention by sending urgent appeals and communications to concerned Governments to clarify and to bring to their attention these cases”.
However, Cheam Channy, a former CNRP lawmaker, said that the United Nations is the top world institution and Cambodia has signed on to agreements over international norms including human rights and democratic principles, so the government should follow those agreements.
“UN is the parent and when we violate the agreement, they need to find the right and the wrong . . . the UN has its clear principles not to interfere in internal affairs, but it will not let a country die if human rights violations are killing its people,” Channy confirmed. “We, the people inside our country, receive threats daily, face land grabbing, violation of will, we cannot accept that . . . we support the OHCHR so that it can find the solution for us.”
Paul Chambers, professor at Naresuan University, said OHCHR’s duty is to protect the rights stated in the UN Charter and International Human Rights Laws as the UN Charter Principles and Universal Declaration of Human Rights which Cambodia has already ratified.
“Cambodia’s government has no legal foundation to claim that OHCHR has violated its mandate by just showing the concern over the decision of the appeal court when OHCHR has clear purpose to protect the human rights stated in the UN Charter which Cambodia has already ratified,” he claimed.
OHCHR also appealed to Cambodia to release the leader of the opposition party, Kem Sokha, who was arrested in a midnight raid on September 3, 2017, and has spent the past six months detained in a remote prison in Tbong Khmum province, near the Vietnam border.