While some observers viewed the UN Human Rights Commission’s resolution on Cambodia as “disappointing,” others said its departure from UN human rights envoy Peter Leuprect’s harsh criticisms of the country’s rights record is just a matter of politics.
In its resolution last week, the commission welcomed Cambodia’s “progress in improving its human rights situation,” only a day after Leuprecht told the commission in Geneva that democracy in Cambodia is sliding backward.
Center for Social Justice Executive Director Chea Vannath said Sunday that with rampant violations in countries such as Colombia, Burma and Syria, the commission may have been heartened by Cambodia’s relative peace and stability and reluctant to come down forcefully on Cambodia.
“If you look at it from the Cambodian point of view, [the resolution] is weak,” she said. “[Those in Cambodia] want to use sticks while [the commission] wants to use carrots.”
During his presentation, Leuprecht decried the rampant impunity and corruption plaguing Cambodia as well as the suppression of rights such as the right to peaceful assembly. The resolution, however, failed to mention many of the contentious issues that Leuprecht had brought to the commission’s attention.
Licadho President Kek Galabru said the resolution let Cambodians down because it did not hold the government accountable for alleged abuses. “It’s very disappointing,” she said Sunday. “I think the human rights situation is going backwards.”
A report released by the Cambodian Center for Human Rights this month and received Sunday echoed Kek Galabru’s comments. “The occurrence of rights violations and politically motivated incidents continued unabated in the first quarter of 2005,” the report states, before noting the March killing of five Poipet villagers in.
Canadian Ambassador Donica Pottie—whose country, along with Australia, Japan and the European Union, sponsored the resolution—said she believed the resolution this year was stronger than in previous years and addressed the relevant issues. “There are real calls for action,” she said.
According to the UN’s procedures, the country concerned negotiates with the other countries to shape the resolution’s wording, meaning any resolution that comes out of the commission will have to be accepted by all parties.
“I think you have to keep in mind that the Cambodian government agreed to the resolution,” Pottie said.
Om Yentieng, head of the government’s human rights committee, said he had not seen the resolution, but blasted Leuprecht. “He betrays the real human rights situation in Cambodia,” he said.