Keo Remy, president of Cambodian Human Rights Committee, yesterday led a delegation to Geneva, Switzerland to attend the 32nd meeting of the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review.
Cambodia is one of 14 States to be reviewed by the UPR working group during its January 21 to February 1 session and Cambodia’s human rights record will be examined for the third time on Wednesday.
According to UNHRC, the aim of the UPR is to improve the human rights situation in every country and it is expected to prompt, support and expand the promotion and protection of human rights on the ground.
Three reports serving as the basis for the review of Cambodia include the national report provided by the state under review, compilation of UN information, and summary of stakeholders’ information provided by civil society groups.
Chin Malin, CHRC spokesman, yesterday said the delegation was ready to defend Cambodia’s human rights record and reveal the actual situation of the country’s democracy and the rule of law to the UN Human Rights Council.
“During the review, we will verbally explain in detail about the mechanisms we had, what we have implemented so far and what challenges we encountered,” he said, “We expect the member states to lay out their recommendations as well.”
The government in November last year submitted a 20-page national report detailing each section of human rights in the Kingdom as a response to various criticisms.
It said Cambodia has been improving in law enforcement, the judicial system, legal reform, juvenile justice and child labour, among many other human rights areas.
Mr Malin noted that 82 countries have registered and requested to give recommendations to Cambodia, after having seen concerns raised in reports made by the UNHRC Special Rapporteur on Cambodia and civil society groups.
“So far, 82 states showed their interests in giving recommendations to Cambodia,” he said, “The UN bodies and civil society groups would only raise the negative parts of human rights in Cambodia and therefore we need to address the council on the general perspective and the positive parts as well.”
In an 11-page document, UN human rights experts expressed concerns over the harassment and intimidation of journalists, human rights defenders, trade unions, land and environment activists, civil society actors and members of the opposition in Cambodia.
It said these people continued to be prosecuted for their activities, in particular through the criminalisation of defamation and other vaguely formulated offences.
The document also detailed the case of former opposition party leader Kem Sokha, who is currently on bail awaiting trial on treason charges, adding that his arrest and detention was politically motivated.
Am Sam Ath, a senior coordinator with rights group Licadho, believes more recommendations would be brought up during the upcoming review as he noticed the government has failed to promote and protect human rights in the last two years.
“Cambodia has implemented some earlier recommendations given by UN’s member states well but some are still causing concerns,” he said, “In 2017 and 2018, the situation became even worse. So I think there will be more recommendations given during the review.”
According to Mr Malin, Cambodia’s second UPR review took place in January 2014 when 205 recommendations were made during the review and the committee took 163 of them to implement.