1 October 2009 An independent United Nations expert today voiced concern about the human rights situation in Cambodia, noting in particular that the judiciary is not as independent as it should be and the basic freedoms of expression and assembly are being restricted.
Reporting to the UN Human Rights Council, Surya Subedi called for improvements to the overall human rights situation in the South-East Asian nation.
“The rule of law is weak in the country. The judiciary is not as independent as it should be. Some of the core political rights such as the freedom of expression and peaceful assembly have been undermined,” said the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia.
Mr. Subedi noted that the country’s defamation laws have gone beyond what is a permissible level of restriction on freedom of expression under the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Cambodia is a party.
He added that the spirit of the provisions guaranteeing freedom of speech in international human rights treaties is to treat any matters relating to restrictions on such freedom, including defamation issues, under civil law rather than criminal law unless such matters are of a grave nature and pose a threat to national security or public order.
Also of concern is the issue of impunity and land evictions, which he said have not been addressed as thoroughly as they should be.
Nevertheless, he said he is encouraged by the fact that the Government is willing to constructively engage with him and other UN human rights entities, calling it “a major step in the right direction.”
He added that the Council should encourage the Government to take concrete action to implement its obligations under various human rights treaties under a strict timeframe.
Mr. Subedi, like all Special Rapporteurs, carries out his mandate in an independent and unpaid capacity, and reports to the Geneva-based Human Rights Council.
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