33rd session of the Human Rights Council
Joint Oral Submission
World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) and CIVICUS

Next month marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the signing of the Paris Peace Agreements, which set out a framework for peace in Cambodia based on a multi-party democracy guaranteeing human rights; however, the past year has seen the pillars of Cambodian democracy come under attack.

Despite the Council’s call in October 2015 for the government “to promote a pluralistic and democratic process”, political opposition have systematically been targeted: last October two opposition lawmakers were brutally beaten by members of the Prime Minister’s Bodyguard Unit; opposition leader Sam Rainsy faces charges for defamation and remains in self-imposed exile; and earlier this month acting opposition leader Kem Sokha was sentenced to five months imprisonment following a criminal investigation widely considered to be politically motivated. 

OMCT, CIVICUS and CCHR are deeply concerned about the escalating attacks on civil society and dissenting voices. For instance, five prominent human rights defenders have been arrested in April on trumped-up charges, prompting four UN human rights experts to urge Cambodia “to stop targeting civil society.” As of today, they have spent 153 days in detention. Investigations into the killing of prominent political analyst Kem Ley, who was gunned down in broad light in July, appear to have stalled. As put by five UN Special Rapporteurs, his assassination is “likely to have a chilling effect on the pursuit of democracy and human rights in Cambodia”.

In this rapidly deteriorating situation, and with commune and national elections approaching, we call on the Council to urge Cambodia to comply with its obligations under international human rights law and the Paris Agreements; to call for the immediate release of the Cambodian five and all political prisoners; and to make use of existing mechanisms, such as the Special Rapporteur on Cambodia, and the upcoming mid-term UPR, to conduct robust monitoring, assessment and follow-up of all recommendations made to Cambodia. 

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