New arrests of activists in Cambodia threaten progress, UN rights chief warns

4 January 2006
Louise Arbour

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights today expressed “deep regret” over the Cambodian Government’s arrest of two more human rights activists and warned this trend threatens to undo efforts to build a just society in the impoverished Southeast Asian nation.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) today expressed “deep regret” over the Cambodian Government’s arrest of two more human rights activists and warned this trend threatens to undo efforts to build a just society in the impoverished Southeast Asian nation.

“These are the latest in a series of defamation, incitement and disinformation law suits and arrests of members of civil society, trade unions, media and the Sam Rainsy opposition party in the course of last year,” said Louise Arbour, who heads the UN’s Geneva-based human rights office.

“This disturbing trend threatens to undo the progress made through painstaking efforts over the last decade to build an open and just society based on the rule of law,” she added.

Last Saturday, Cambodian authorities arrested and detained Kem Sokha, President of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights and Yeng Virak, Director of the Cambodian Legal Education Centre on charges of defamation.

Reacting to this development, Ms. Arbour also reminded the Government that Cambodia had signed all key international human rights treaties, including those guaranteeing freedom of expression, association and assembly.

Cambodia emerged from decades of civil war, including the Khmer Rouge genocide, with the signing of the UN-brokered Paris Peace Agreement in 1991 that set the country on the road to developing a civil society.

In December, 2004, Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s Special Representative, Yash Ghai, heard from representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) who complained of constraints they face in the performance of their duties, including increasing restrictions on their freedom of expression.

 

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