Cambodia: Concerns rise over governments establishment of National Human Rights Institution

The Royal Government of Cambodia is moving towards the establishment of a National Human Rights Institution (NHRI) after the Cambodian Human Rights Committee (CHRC) completed its first draft of the legislation to establish the institution. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its affiliate the Cambodian Journalists Association (CamboJA) urge the government to first restore human rights in Cambodia and create a productive environment for the institution to function properly and independently.

Prime Minister Hun Sen's arrival at Phnom Penh International Airport on May 11, 2020. Credit: TANG CHHIN SOTHY / AFP

The first draft of the NHRI legislation was proposed on May 31. A meeting was held to discuss it and to allow members of the CHRC to provide their inputs on it. On June 1 CHRC spokesman Chin Malin said that some revisions to the first draft were being discussed internally.

On August 24 a coalition of local human rights NGOs, including various media organisations, issued a statement to the government addressing their concerns regarding the legislation. The statement provided recommendations to the OHCHR office, which is working on the NHRI law.

The statement says, “We recognize that an NHRI is needed in Cambodia to investigate human rights abuses … [However] we do not trust that the NHRI that the RGC intends to create will be independent, effective and credible.”

The concerns of human rights organistions are that establishing an NHRI now, considering the current political climate in Cambodia, would lead to failures in its attempt to protect and promote human rights. Human rights continue to be denied by Cambodia’s government and civil space continues to shrink as opposing voices are suppressed, such as the voices of journalists, human rights defenders, and opposition politicians. Further, the government has been known to continuously proritise power over the interests of its citizens.

CamboJA said, “We have been working together with some of active human rights NGOs leaders in order to express our concerns and recommendations to OHCHR office in Cambodia.”

The IFJ said: “The implementation of the National Human Rights Institution has the appearance of serving the Cambodian population significantly. However, the government must first address issues within their own government before attempting to establish this institution. The IFJ calls for the CHRC for address the issues of the human rights NGOs and media stakeholders in order to ensure that the rights of Cambodian citizens are upheld now and in the future.”

For further information contact IFJ Asia - Pacific on ifj@ifj-asia.org

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries

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