UN rights envoy to Cambodia decries spate of violence ahead of elections
In a statement released in Phnom Penh, Peter Leuprecht, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Human Rights in Cambodia, said that he remains convinced that "properly conducted, free and fair commune elections will contribute to the consolidation of pluralist democracy in Cambodia."
At the same time, the Special Representative voiced grave concern over recent instances of violence against election candidates and members of political parties, the statement said, adding that such violence could have a "serious and negative effect" on the public's confidence in the elections, planned for February of 2002.
Mr. Leuprecht called on the Cambodian Government to take "swift action" in response to these incidents, welcoming Prime Minister Hun Sen's statement last week urging all Cambodians to refrain from violence and asking local authorities to ensure the security of all participants in the electoral process.
"Opinion surveys" carried out by local authorities, including in some instances local police, also drew the concern of the Special Representative. In his statement Mr. Leuprecht reminded the Government that local involvement in conducting such surveys on behalf of political parties was contrary to the conduct of free and fair elections and also in violation of the electoral law.
"The Special Representative emphasizes that impartiality of government institutions is a prerequisite for free and fair elections and therefore urges the Government to bring such practices to an immediate halt," the statement said.