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United Nations removes Kingdom from list of nations that apply torture

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Garment workers sew Armani jeans in the Kin Tai garment factory on the outskirts of Phnom Penh in May 2015. The Kingdom’s garment sector is the biggest beneficiary of the European Union’s Everything But Arms scheme. Kimberley McCosker

United Nations removes Kingdom from list of nations that apply torture

Cambodia has been removed from the United Nation’s list of states not complying with Article 17 of the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT).

The development indicates an improvement in the Kingdom’s image as a nation widely criticised for its human rights record and lends credibility to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government, which has constantly denied allegations of human rights abuses.

A letter signed on Wednesday by June Lopez, head of the Regional Team for Asia and the Pacific Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture, and published on Thursday, said the United Nations Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (SPT) had “removed” Cambodia from its list of states not in compliance with Article 17.

The article says: “Each State Party shall maintain, designate or establish, at the latest one year after the entry into force of the present Protocol or of its ratification or accession, one or several independent national preventive mechanisms for the prevention of torture at the domestic level”.

Lopez added that “the SPT looks forward to continuing a constructive dialogue with the authorities of Cambodia”.

Katta Orn, a member and spokesman for the government’s Human Right Committee, expressed support for the UN subcommittee’s move and said it proved that Cambodia has prevented the occurrence of torture.

“In all prisons in the Kingdom of Cambodia, there is no torture . . . we have committed to implementing that treaty. Since joining OPCAT in 1982, the Kingdom regularly followed its lead."

“I think it is a good thing and [I am] proud of our country and our people, especially in preventing any cruelty like that which happened in the past, during the Khmer Rouge regime,” he said.

Expressing similar pride for the country’s progress, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) published a response to a European Commission’s (EC) “list of concerns” based on a fact-finding mission that UN Special Rapporteur Rhona Smith made to Cambodia.

The release expressed gratitude to the European Union for supporting development efforts in Cambodia. It also committed to upholding democratic principles in the July 29 national election.

“Nineteen political parties are going to oppose the ruling party, the CPP. It is worth mentioning that it is a true democratic contest with real contenders to the present ruling party,” the statement reads.

The move comes as the ministry sends a delegation to the EU under orders of the prime minister in the hope of having the Kingdom’s status in the Everything But Arms (EBA) trade scheme retained.

“The Government trusts the good faith and impartiality of the European Union. As such, it wishes that the EU will dispatch its observers during the electoral campaign process, the counting of ballots and seat allocations."

“The Government hopes the international community will not prejudge the plurality of the electoral competition and the quality of the ballot, and that any final appreciation of the entire electoral process should be done in situ,” it said.

Political analyst Chham Bunthet declined to comment for this report.

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