Unwarranted limitations on civic space in Cambodia, Egypt and Syria - Statement at Human Rights Council

CIVICUS remains deeply concerned by the ongoing conflict in Syria and the continued suffering of its people. Yet last week’s cessation of hostilities and the attendant reduction in violence and airstrikes has again engendered hope that humanitarian access will be granted to besieged areas. This cessation of hostilities agreement - the second since February -  is also a rare opportunity to move towards a negotiated political solution to Syria’s devastating conflict. We call on all sides to ensure with utmost political will that this opportunity is not wasted. There is also a pressing need for the voices of Syria citizens and civil society to be heard and fully included in any transitional justice and peace process.

Mr. President, next month Cambodia marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of its signing of the Paris Peace Agreements, which set out a comprehensive framework for peace based on international human rights law and multi-party democracy. However, 25 years later, Cambodian democracy remains under systematic threat. The government continues to crackdown on dissenting voices and has consolidated its position ahead of upcoming elections. Civil society, and the political opposition are targeted through judicial persecution and unwarranted harassment. We urge the Council to condemn, in the strongest terms, all violations of international human rights standards safeguarding the freedoms of association, assembly and expression and undertake a robust monitoring process of all recommendations made to Cambodia in this regard.

Mr. President, we remain equally concerned by the continued deterioration of the environment for civil society in Egypt. Last week’s asset freeze of several CSOs is patently designed to paralyze human rights NGOs as part of a broader policy to silence any dissent against the security apparatus. Without the rights defenders who document violations and defend citizens falling victim to injustice and state violence, the country will only destabilize further, as ever more of its inhabitants develop irreconcilable grievances against the State and become increasingly susceptible to violence or recruitment by radical extremist groups.

We urge the Egyptian authorities to close the foreign funding case and withdraw all associated repressive measures, including asset freezes and travel bans against rights defenders, and to cease all other measures of repression and intimidation of civil society and HRDs.