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Saturday, March 10, 2007

Cambodia human rights violations rampant: UN report

Friday March 9, 2007

[JURIST] The Cambodian government uses systematic human rights and civil liberty violations to maintain its hold on power, according to a report [UN press release] by UN special rights representative Yash Ghai [appointment notice] and obtained by AFP. The report listed illegal land grabs, torture while in police custody, corruption among senior government officials, and a steadfast government opposition to democracy among other violations.

Cambodian officials angrily denied Ghai's allegations, accusing him of being an outsider speaking about things he did not understand. Cambodian government human rights advisor Om Yentieng said it would not be appropriate to respond to the accusations [DPA report], which he insisted were not based on fact. Cambodian prime minister Hun Sen [BBC profile] said that Ghai is no longer welcome in Cambodia because of his criticism.

In contrast, the Asian Human Rights Commission [advocacy website] condemned [press release] Sen's remarks and human rights advocate and founder of Cambodian rights group Licadho [advocacy website], Kek Galabru, said Ghai's conclusions were "generally correct." AFP has more.

The UN findings are broadly consistent with the latest US State Department human rights report on Cambodia released earlier this week as part of its 2006 worldwide human rights review [JURIST report], which concluded:

The government's human rights record remained poor. Government agents committed extrajudicial killings, and security forces acted with impunity. There was little political will to address the failure by government authorities to adhere to the rule of law.

Detainees were abused, often to extract confessions, and prison conditions were harsh. Human rights monitors reported arbitrary arrests and prolonged pretrial detention, underscoring a weak judiciary and denial of the right to a fair trial.

Land disputes and forced evictions, often accompanied by violence, were a growing problem. The government restricted freedom of speech and press through the use of defamation and disinformation suits, controlled or influenced the content of television and radio broadcasts, and sometimes interfered with freedom of assembly.

Corruption was endemic and extended throughout all segments of society, including the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government.
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Cambodia ruled through rights abuse: UN

March 9, 2007

PHNOM PENH (AFP) - Systematic rights violations are key to the Cambodian government's grip on power, a United Nations' envoy warned in a report accusing the administration of refusing to improve its rights record.

The report by special rights representative Yash Ghai, which was obtained by AFP on Friday, urged the international community to lean harder on the government over its failure to protect basic liberties.
"As deliberate and systemic violations of human rights have become central to the government's hold over power, the international community ... should do all it can to persuade and press the government to respect its human rights commitments," the report said.

Ghai, who is expected to return to Cambodia next week, regretted that "instead of responding to the concerns raised by the special representatives and United Nations bodies, a frequent response of the government has been evasion or accusation, scapegoating and intimidation," it added.
After an unusually blunt appraisal of rights violations last year, Ghai was publicly attacked in several speeches by Prime Minister Hun Sen, who demanded he be sacked.

His comments also prompted a round of criticism from other top government officials who blasted UN staff as "gods without virtue" and "tourists" in a country they knew nothing about.

The report, written after Ghai's second trip to Cambodia last March, was submitted to the UN's Human Rights Council during its session earlier this year.

While noting that Cambodia enjoys better political security, it catalogued a growing list of violations, from illegal land grabs to torture while in police custody.

"The absence of effective institutions of government, basic laws and an impartial judiciary ... all leave Cambodia's citizens insecure, vulnerable to systemic denial and violations of their rights," the report said.

Despite billions of dollars in foreign aid, most of impoverished Cambodia's institutions are still in ruin after decades of war that ended in 1998.
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