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Report: rights not defended

A military policeman discharges his rifle during deadly clashes with protesters in Phnom Penh
A military policeman discharges his rifle during deadly clashes with protesters in Phnom Penh last year. A report released yesterday accuses the government of not abiding by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Heng Chivoan

Report: rights not defended

The government has failed to meet its obligations in upholding civil and political rights, human rights groups have alleged.

A report, released yesterday ahead of a UN Human Rights Committee session later this month, documents what the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and local rights groups Adhoc and Licadho describe as the “government’s failure to respect, protect, and fulfill the fundamental civil and political rights guaranteed by” the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

“More than 20 years have passed since Cambodia’s accession to the ICCPR. During this entire time, Prime Minister Hun Sen’s administrations have made little or no effort to implement the convention,” FIDH president Karim Lahidji said in a statement.

The report highlights the killing of at least 10 people by security forces since April 2013 to demonstrate what it calls a “pattern of excessive force” that is “typically followed by a failure to properly investigate and punish those responsible”.

It offers more than 40 recommendations to the government for improvement in areas including torture in police custody.

The “politically influenced justice system continues to prosecute more government opponents, while state actors and well-connected individuals continue to enjoy impunity”, the report notes.

Government spokesman Phay Siphan, however, disputed this conclusion, offering the recent case of dismissed Phnom Penh Municipal Court judge Ang Maltey as evidence the government is tackling high-level corruption. “That is proof,” he said.

The publication of the report – covering issues ranging from freedom of expression and association to prison overcrowding and electoral reform – follows the submission of a government-authored report to the UN, which FIDH, Adhoc and Licadho criticised for omitting key facts.

“The Cambodian government’s report to the committee, which was long overdue, lacks any connection to the present situation on the ground and reflects the authorities’ unwillingness to seriously acknowledge and address serious and systematic human rights violations,” Licadho director Naly Pilorge said.

New laws under consideration, such as the law on trade unions, and the law on associations and non-governmental organisations “have the potential to further limit the exercise of fundamental civil rights”, FIDH noted.

A draft cybercrime law raises “serious concerns about the government’s intention to censor and monitor the internet”.

Siphan, however, cautioned against too much “finger-pointing”.

“We don’t want a colour revolution . . . it’s still too early to expect so much from the government, but the pace and dimensions of the reform are easy to see,” he said.

He added that the government would take the FIDH recommendations.

Adhoc president Thun Saray said the government must comply with the recommendations of human rights groups, including those of the UN.

“The government is only paying lip service to UN mechanisms,” he said.

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