UN envoy calls for reforms to address human rights concerns in Cambodia
A United Nations envoy today welcomed legal reforms in Cambodia, expressing hope that their long-awaited adoption will begin to redress unjust court proceedings and other violations of human rights in the Southeast Asian country.
The Special Representative of the Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for human rights in the country, Yash Ghai, said he hoped that the Code of Penal Procedure “will overcome many of the problems that have dogged the Cambodian justice system and that the Government will give priority to its implementation.”
Mr. Ghai, who conducted his third official visit to Cambodia from 29 to 31 May 2007, cited, with particular regret, a recent decision by the Appeal Court to uphold convictions for the murder of a trade union leader despite strong exculpatory evidence and “fundamentally flawed” proceedings.
“The upholding of these sentences is a grave injustice and the Special Representative reiterates his calls for a thorough, impartial and credible investigation into the murder of Chea Vichea, and for the prosecution of those responsible,” he said in a statement.
Mr. Ghai also voiced hope for the speedy adoption of the Internal Rules for the courts organized to try former Khmer Rouge leaders, accused of mass killings and other horrific crimes during the late 1970s, stressing the importance of independent international monitoring of the trials and the investigation of irregularities.
On other issues, he noted with alarm the continued intimidation of members of the workers’ movement and said he will shortly release a report presenting a human rights perspective on land concessions that he maintains have destroyed the livelihoods of rural communities in favour of the enrichment of an elite.
On the other hand, he noted with approval that the commune council elections on 1 April were conducted in an atmosphere marked by less violence, threats and confrontation than in previous elections, though he also looked forward to investigations of the drop in voter turnout.
He said those who wish to vote in next year’s general elections should have the “full opportunity to register and cast their votes,” and for political parties to be given the opportunity “to conduct their campaigns fairly and freely.”
The Special Representative met with Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng during his visit, but expressed regret that none of the other senior government officials he had hoped to meet were available to see him. He was, however, able to meet with civil society, political parties, the National Election Commission, UN agencies and the diplomatic community.