Cambodia: UN expert concerned over curbs affecting human rights, democratic processes

7 April 2014

The United Nations independent expert on the situation of human rights in Cambodia, expressed concern today that the country’s National Assembly held its second session last week without the opposition representatives taking up their seat, and urged the legislature to upkeep the key principles of any law-making process: transparency, accountability and participation.

“I am seriously concerned about the legislative implications of the National Assembly functioning with the representation of only by one party, and thus only a portion of the electorate,” said Mr. Surya Subedi, tasked with following closely the situation in Cambodia where restrictions on human rights and fundamental freedoms have been happening since 2013, as a direct consequence of the unresolved political situation following contested election results.

Explaining that several important laws with significant implications for the protection and promotion of human rights – including on the judiciary, trade unions, civil society, and others –are reportedly being prepared by the National Assembly – the UN expert stressed in a news release that “speedy enactment should not come at the cost of the key principles of any law-making process, namely: transparency, accountability and participation.”

“In a true democracy,” he continued, “the people of the country must be provided with an adequate opportunity to comment on the content of draft laws prior to adoption by the legislature,” adding that this includes “the opportunity for parliamentarians belonging to opposition parties to effectively debate and, if necessary, amend the bills before they are passed by the legislature.”

Mr. Subedi welcomed the recent reform commitments made by the Government, but emphasized that “reform will be meaningful only when there is meaningful participation by the public or their representatives.”

For this reason, the expert called on the Government and the National Assembly to release for public and expert review all draft laws before the Council of Ministers as soon as possible, particularly those with implications for the realisation and enjoyment of human rights.

Independent experts or special rapporteurs are appointed by the Geneva-based Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.


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