Work Remains for Cambodia After UN Rights Hearing

Though Cambodia had four years to implement 91 recommendations on how to improve its human rights record, U.N. member states still had to push for action in a number of key areas during its second Universal Periodic Review hearing in Geneva on Tuesday.

In a speech to the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Mak Sambath, vice-chair of the government’s Human Rights Committee, admitted that it was unclear exactly how many of the 91 recommendations made in 2009 have actually been implemented, and conceded that reforms have yet to be carried out on the electoral process and judicial system.

According to a briefing note issued by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva, member states’ renewed recommendations to Cambodia focused on 13 key points, including the establishment of an independent human rights body, which is something Cambodia promised to do in 2009.

An official list of fresh or renewed recommendations is to be presented to Cambodia by the U.N. rights council on Friday.

Nicolas Agostini, the International Federation of Human Rights’ delegate to the U.N., said by email Wednesday that Cambodia needed to stop making excuses.

“Cambodia’s history, or its low level of development, [is] no excuses for failing to implement key recommendations relating to civil and political rights. Some steps can be taken now, as they do not require financial resources. With political will, there would be immediate progress,” Mr. Agostini wrote.

One such initiative would be to immediately lift a January 4 ban on public gatherings, he added.

Rupert Abbott, Amnesty International’s researcher on Cambodia, said the Cambodian delegation in Geneva seemed removed from the reality of human rights on the ground.

“The response [by the Cambodia delegation to the council] was generally fairly weak and not accepting the reality of the situation over the past few weeks, which is very serious,” Mr. Abbott said. “Deep reforms moving forward are needed.”

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