Item 2 General Debate
Human Rights Situation in Cambodia—Joint Statement
Delivered by Ambassador Keith Harper
September 14, 2016
I have the honor to read this statement on behalf of a group of 36 states including: Albania, Australia, Bosnia-Herzegovina*, Canada, Japan, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Liechtenstein*, Norway, Switzerland, the 28 EU member states, Ukraine*, and the United States. [ The * denotes States which signed after the statement was delivered bringing the total number supporting the statement to 39]
We note Cambodia’s commitment in its constitution to preserve and defend “a multi-party liberal democratic regime guaranteeing human rights and the respect of law.” We recognize Cambodia’s history of cooperation with UN mechanisms and its international human rights commitments and obligations, as demonstrated by its support of the establishment of an OHCHR office in the country and by the ratification of a number of international human rights conventions. We encourage the Cambodian Government to renew its Memorandum of Understanding with OHCHR. We also recognize the steps taken by Cambodia, in response to widespread citizen concerns about the 2013 elections, to initiate reforms of the National Election Committee, voter registry and elections procedures.
Despite these positive steps, we note the concerns expressed by several Special Rapporteurs earlier this year about new impediments to the rights to freedom of opinion and expression, the right to peaceful assembly,and the right to freedom of association. We support their call on Cambodian authorities “to ensure a safe and enabling environment for human rights defenders and civil society, which play a critical role in holding the Government to account and bringing benefits of human rights to the whole of Cambodian society.” We also share the Secretary-General’s desire for the Government of Cambodia to resume political dialogue and to “ensure full respect for human rights, including the freedoms of expression, association, and assembly.”
We are deeply concerned about the current escalation of political tensions in Cambodia, which threatens legitimate activities by opposition parties and human rights NGOs. There is particular concern about the appearance that legal action is being disproportionately pursued against critics of the government. We are equally concerned about the status of “culture of dialogue” between the two main political parties, which has ceased to function. We lament the recent murder of commentator and analyst Kem Ley and note the chilling effect this crime has had upon civil society and independent voices in Cambodia.
We call for a full and transparent investigation into Mr. Ley’s death. More broadly, we call on all the relevant stakeholders to work toward deescalating the tensions and building trust and confidence. We also urge the government to make their utmost efforts to create a political environment in which opposition parties and civil society can all function freely. We also call upon Cambodia to uphold its commitments to the Cambodian people and to the international community to conduct free and fair elections which would ensure the legitimacy of the next government. We stand ready to assist Cambodia and its people to address these concerns in a way that is consistent with international human rights law.