Cambodia failed Monday to make its deadline to submit a key human rights report—known as the universal period review (UPR)—to the U.N., said Mak Sambath, deputy chairman of the government’s Human Rights Committee.
Having missed the submission deadline, the government is now hoping to get its report to Geneva by Wednesday, Mr. Sambath said.
“Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered to include more information about the government’s vision in the fifth mandate to reform the judiciary system,” he said of the reason for missing the deadline, which only comes every four years.
“The report will tell the U.N. that the government has strong commitment in reforming the judiciary which is why the government will implement by early next year some vital laws.”
According to Mr. Sambath, the proposed laws will concern the statutes of judges and prosecutors, an amendment law on the organization and functions of the Supreme Council of Magistracy and a law on how the court is organized.
Mr. Sambath declined to provide a copy of the report.
Thun Saray, president of local rights group Adhoc, said the last-minute additions concerning judicial reform could be an attempt by the government to distract the U.N. Human Rights Council from the current political situation and Cambodia’s deteriorating human rights record.
“I think that they would like to show good things to the Human Rights Council, especially when it comes to judicial reform, which is a big issue and a real political issue that the U.N. special rapporteur has focused on,” Mr. Saray said.
“Serious commitment is good on paper, but it is not enough,” he said.
In his latest report to the Human Rights Council in Geneva last month, U.N. human rights envoy Surya Subedi criticized Cambodia’s weak judicial and parliamentary systems as having contributed “to the context in which the elections are taking place, some of which might not be conducive to a free and fair outcome.”
Mr. Subedi has repeatedly said that the government has not addressed his concerns on electoral and judicial reform.
If the government does submit its report on Wednesday, it will be Cambodia’s second time undergoing the UPR process, where the Human Rights Council reviews the human rights record of each U.N. member state once every four years.
After Cambodia’s first review in 2009, the council made 91 recommendations, many of which were related to Cambodia’s record on forced evictions, restrictions on freedom of expression and the lack of judicial independence.
Before the 2009 submission, the government had sought input from local and international NGOs. This time, the government had bypassed the consultation process because it did not like criticism from NGOs, Mr. Sambath claimed.
“Some civil society organizations do not implement their role…but they have instead worked like an opposition in order to give us destructive criticism,” he said.
Adhoc’s Mr. Saray said this “destructive criticism” is the reason why, at the very last minute, the government is now adding judicial reforms to their human rights report.
“They now recognize the weaknesses of our judicial systems and so NGOs are not providing destructive criticism—we have been talking about the [lack of independence in the] judiciary in Cambodia for a long time now,” Mr. Saray said.
“They have to recognize that these criticism are real and they are good and they must acknowledge these kind of weaknesses.”