Impunity Looms Over Poll, Rights Group Says

On the first anniversary of the March 30 grenade attack, Hu­man Rights Watch Asia condem­ned Cambodia’s climate of im­punity and political violence, and said that fair elections are doubtful under the current conditions.

“Prospects for free and fair national elections for July 1998 are seriously threatened unless the pattern of ongoing political violence and impunity for murders and human rights violators is immediately addressed by the Cambodian government,” wrote Sidney Jones, executive director of the organization’s Asia division.

In its statement, the New York-based human-rights organization emphasized that despite to­day’s scheduled return of de­posed first prime minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh, the lack of an independent judiciary and mounting political violence are equally critical obstacles to free and fair elections.

According to human rights workers, at least 41 cases of extra-judicial killings took place following the fighting last July, and another dozen apparently politically motivated killings have taken place since December,

ac­cording to Human Rights Watch’s report.

In the past month political violence toward both senior Fun­cinpec officials and lower level opposition party workers in the provinces has increased, according to the organization.

The rights group called on the government to take immediate action to stop political violence, investigate the human-rights violations that have taken place since 1993. It also asked the government to make the National Elec­tion Committee and the Supreme Council of Magistracy independent.

It also called for the repeal of article 51 of the Civil Servants Act, which prevents civil servants from being arrested or prosecuted unless their department gives prior approval.

Human Rights Watch also asked Asean not to admit Cam­bodia until the government fulfills the aforementioned requirements, and demanded that the US Federal Bureau of Investi­gation release all information obtained last year in its probe into the March 30 grenade attack.

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