UN body critiques party law amendments
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said yesterday that the amendments to the Law on Political Parties affects opposition parties’ freedom of expression and could also potentially strip them of their fundamental rights.
Among the concerns raised in its analysis titled “A Human Rights Analysis of the Amended Law on Political Parties (2017)” was the amended article 18, which now states that leaders with a criminal conviction will no longer be allowed to head a party or risk the party’s dissolution.
“It may be argued that not all misdemeanor offenses set out in Cambodian laws are so serious as to warrant disqualification from party leadership for life,” the report read.
“Rather than creating an absolute disqualification, they render the consequences more proportionate to the offense by, for example: limiting restrictions to only the most serious crimes, which are appropriately referenced,” it added.
The OHCHR also suggested that the government instead allow people to choose their own representatives rather than a blanket ban on all convicted politicians as rendered by the newly minted article 18.
“In general, modern democratic principles entrust voters to judge for themselves a candidate’s fitness for a leadership position in a political party,” it said.
“If the members of a political party would not wish to see convicted persons assume a position of leadership, they are free to include such a rule in their own statutes, as set out in Article 10 of the Law on Political Parties,” it said.
The OHCHR also suggested an amendment to the language used for article 34, which states that only the judiciary has the power to dissolve a political party.
“Dissolution should only be applied if no less restrictive means can be found. The dissolution of political parties based on the activities of party members as individuals is incompatible with the protection that should be accorded to parties as associations.
“This incompatibility extends to the individual actions of party leadership, except cases in which they are proven to have acted as a representative of the party as a whole,” the OHCHR said.
It also addressed article 29 which prohibits a party from receiving foreign funding, noting that the vague language left the legislation open for abuse.
“In view of the large Cambodian diaspora, the large number of Cambodian migrant workers abroad, and the fact that Cambodia recognizes double nationality, the terms ‘foreign’ and ‘foreigners’ should be precisely defined so as to avoid precluding Cambodian nationals abroad from contributing if they wish,” it said.
Spokesmen for the ruling CPP and opposition CNRP could not be reached for comment.
The Asean Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) last Monday also issued a report slamming the government for passing the amendments, which it claimed was solely to oppress opposition parties.
The CPP passed the amendments on February 20 despite calls from the opposition to delay voting in favor of a debate on the amendments. The CNRP boycotted the parliamentary session and did not vote on the amendments.
As a result several opposition members who had been convicted of crimes, including former opposition leader Sam Rainsy, resigned from the party out of fear they could jeopardize the party’s position.
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