UN Resolution on Cambodia Soft on Human Rights Issues

The Human Rights Council (HRC) in Geneva was set to pass a resolution on Friday that made a number of suggestions as to how Cambodia could improve its human rights record, but one rights group said it failed to properly hold the country to account for past abuses.

The resolution, which was drafted by Austria, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Japan, Luxembourg, Slovenia and Sweden, was expected to pass without much, if any debate, at the 24th session of the HRC—three days after human rights envoy Surya Subedi told the council that Cam­bodia is at a crossroads in terms of its democratization.

A draft copy of the resolution, obtained Thursday, encourages the government and U.N. to see proceedings at the Khmer Rouge tribunal continue in a “fair, efficient and expeditious” manner, but the countries ex­press “grave concern over the financial situation” at the court.

Although the legal onus is on the government to provide salaries for the national component, which has suffered heavily in terms of funding, the resolution merely “stresses the need for the government of Cambodia and the international community to provide all appropriate assistance to the Extraordinary Chambers.”

While Mr. Subedi’s report to the council outlines personal attacks made against him by members of the government, who also froze him out during his December 2012 mission, the draft resolution does not mention these issues.

Instead, Mr. Subedi is advised to “maintain close and respectful consultations” with the government. The countries also request that his mandate be extended for a further two years.

A soft touch was also taken by the drafting countries regarding the recent election and violent post-election climate, which left one person dead, and several others shot. The CNRP, along with election monitors, claims that the election was unfair, and the opposition is now boycotting the 55 seats it won in the National Assembly.

The draft resolution “welcomes the fact that the elections for the National Assembly, on 28 July 2013, were held in a generally smooth and peaceful manner, while taking note of the protests following the elections as well as the joint announcement between ruling and opposition parties on 16 September concerning the electoral reform.”

But Nicolas Agostini, the U.N. delegate for the International Fed­eration for Human Rights, said the resolution was overall “very weak” because it failed to take Cambodia to task for documented human rights abuses and said it merely “takes note” of protests and violence that were sparked by the elections, without condemning such actions outright.

“By adopting such a weak resolution, the Human Rights Coun­cil is rewarding the Cambodian government for spitting at the face of the United Na­tions,” Mr. Agostini said.

“It is turning a blind eye to serious and systematic human rights violations and to a blatant lack of cooperation on the part of the Cambodian government, who went as far as launching a smear campaign against Mr. Subedi, questioning his independence and professionalism.”

Many of the concerned states that weighed in on Mr. Subedi’s written and verbal assessment of the state of human rights in Cambodia flagged the country’s failure to pass three crucial laws on the judiciary, which Mr. Subedi has repeatedly said are constitutionally mandated.

Mr. Agostini said the government now needed to follow through on its promise to adopt new laws on the status of judges and prosecutors, on the organization of courts and the reform of the Supreme Council of Magistracy.

“The Cambodian government has made commitments, in particular to adopt the three basic laws pertaining to the judiciary, which are long overdue, but it now has to take action to prove that these commitments were made in good faith and were not just a tactic to get away with its abysmal human rights record and to appease critics at election time,” Mr. Agostini said.

In a speech on the activities of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Cambodia earlier this week, Flavia Pansieri, the deputy high commissioner for human rights, said certain reforms are needed to ensure that human rights are protected in Cambodia.

“We hope that Cambodia will embark, as promised, on an ambitious program to reform of some of its key institutions which are fundamental for the promotion and protection of human rights, including the judiciary and the National Assembly,” she said.

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