Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Cambodia
Wed the 12th Waning Moon of Poṭṭhapāda B.E.2560, September 28, A.D.2016 Year of the Monkey
Over the past year, Prime Minister Hun Sen and his Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) have significantly escalated their targeting of Cambodia’s political opposition, human rights defenders, social activists, and public intellectuals. They appear intent on eliminating all opposition and independent voices and undoing most of what has been accomplished in Cambodia since the Paris Peace Agreements were signed 25 years ago.
Hun Sen and other government officials rely on the CPP-controlled judiciary to imprison peaceful critics, while the security forces threaten, intimidate and assault those deemed to be government opponents. These abuses appear aimed at ensuring a CPP victory in local and national elections scheduled for 2017 and 2018, thereby safeguarding CPP power and the economic interests of its leadership.
The Paris Agreements committed Cambodia “to ensure respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms” in the country and “to support the right of all Cambodian citizens to undertake activities that would promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms.” They committed the 18 other signatories – including all P-5 members, Japan, Australia, and most members of ASEAN — “to promote and encourage respect for and observance of human rights… to prevent the recurrence of human rights abuses.”
We call upon Cambodia, the Human Rights Council, the Paris signatories, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Special Rapporteur on Cambodia to take urgent action to fulfill these commitments. All politically motivated criminal charges and convictions should be dropped or overturned, including those against opposition leaders Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha, other members of parliament, staff of the internationally respected human rights organization ADHOC, and the Boeung Kak land rights activists. The recent assassination of political commentator Kem Ley – yet another in a long line of political killings – is yet another reminder of how fragile the situation is and the need for concerted international efforts to avoid Cambodia reverting to a one-party state where bullets are more important than ballots.
In her report to this Session, the Special Rapporteur recommends that the government review outstanding recommendations by the Special Rapporteur, treaty bodies and states. We support this and would ask the Special Rapporteur: what is your assessment of the status of implementation of your recommendations? We would also encourage the Special Rapporteur to address, in her next report, the implementation of recommendations by Cambodia of various UN bodies and to identify benchmarks for progress.
“Vietnam’s relentless persecution of government critics using repressive laws and kangaroo courts shows that compliance with the country’s international human rights obligations ranks at the bottom of Hanoi’s priorities.” Dimitris Christopoulos, FIDH President.
Thu the 6th Waning Moon of Poṭṭhapāda B.E.2560, September 22, A.D.2016 Year of the Monkey (Paris) Vietnam must end the ongoing repression of peaceful dissent, repeal its repressive laws, and immediately release all political prisoners, FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights) and its member organization Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR) said today. FIDH and VCHR’s call followed the imprisonment of three government critics in three days.
Today, the People’s Supreme Court in Hanoi upheld a lower court’s conviction of blogger Nguyen Huu Vinh and his assistant Nguyen Thi Minh Thuy for “abusing democratic freedoms to harm the interests of the State” under Article 258 of the Criminal Code and sentenced them to five and three years in prison respectively. The trial was held behind closed doors. In addition, Vinh’s wife, Le Thi Minh Ha, has not been allowed to visit him in prison for the past five months.
Nguyen Huu Vinh and Nguyen Thi Minh Thuy were arrested on 5 May 2014 and accused of “publishing online articles with bad contents and misleading information to lower the prestige and create public distrust of government offices, social organizations, and citizens.” On 23 March 2016, a People’s Court in Hanoi sentenced the two to five and three years in prison respectively.
On 20 September 2016, the Dong Da District Court in Hanoi sentenced land rights activist Can Thi Theu, 54, to 20 months in prison on charges of causing public disorder under Article 245 of the Criminal Code. Theu was arrested on 10 June 2016 for leading protests against land confiscation outside various government offices in Hanoi. Police beat and detained several activists and family members who attempted to attend the trial.
Vietnamese authorities have repeatedly used legislation inconsistent with Vietnam’s obligations under international law to suppress the right to freedom of opinion and expression and to detain government critics.
Vietnam holds about 130 political prisoners – the largest number among Southeast Asian countries.
Press contacts FIDH: Mr. Arthur Manet (French, English, Spanish) – Tel: +33672284294 (Paris) FIDH: Mr. Andrea Giorgetta (English) – Tel: +66886117722 (Bangkok) VCHR: Ms. Penelope Faulkner (Vietnamese, English, French) – Tel: +33611898681 (Paris)
Fri the 15th Waxing Moon of Poṭṭhapāda B.E.2560, September 16, A.D.2016 Year of the Monkey
Role and achievements of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in assisting the Government and people of Cambodia in the promotion and protection of human rights
Download Report in English PDF: ohchr-cambodia_2016
Thu the 14th Waxing Moon of Poṭṭhapāda B.E.2560, September 15, A.D.2016 Year of the Monkey
Geneva (13 September 2016) – “Human rights violations will not disappear if a government blocks access to international observers,” the High Commissioner for Human Rights said in his opening statement at the 33rd session of the Human Rights Council. “On the contrary, efforts to duck or refuse legitimate scrutiny raise an obvious question: what, precisely, are you hiding from us?” Mr. Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein discussed the mistaken notion that pressing for human rights is a violation of State sovereignty; rather, he claims, monitoring activities and advocacy are “intended to help better protect the people of your countries.”
Ambassador Keith Harper, U.S. Representative to the Human Rights Council, spoke for a group of 39 countries to deliver a joint statement expressing concern about the human rights situation in Cambodia. The statement calls for a full investigation into the recent murder of Kem Ley, and expresses concern about the escalation of political tensions in Cambodia and the threat to activites by civil society and opposition parties.
Wed the 13th Waxing Moon of Poṭṭhapāda B.E.2560, September 14, A.D.2016 Year of the Monkey
Joint Statement on Human Rights Situation in Cambodia
មានពីរភាសា ខ្មែរ និង អង់គ្លេស
Wed the 13th Waxing Moon of Poṭṭhapāda B.E.2560, September 14, A.D.2016 Year of the Monkey
Courtesy U.S. Embassy to Cambodia
ថ្លែងដោយលោកឯកអគ្គរដ្ឋទូត Keith Harper តំណាងសហរដ្ឋអាមេរិកប្រចាំនៅក្រុមប្រឹក្សាសិទ្ធិមនុស្សរបស់អង្គការសហប្រជាជាតិ
លោកឯកអគ្គរដ្ឋទូត Keith Harper តំណាងសហរដ្ឋអាមេរិកប្រចាំនៅក្រុមប្រឹក្សាសិទ្ធិមនុស្សរបស់អង្គការសហប្រជាជាតិ Ambassador Keith Harper, Representative of the United States to the United Nations Human Rights Council
Delivered by Ambassador Keith Harper, Representative of the United States to the United Nations Human Rights Council
I have the honor to read this statement on behalf of a group of 36 states including: Albania, Australia, Canada, Japan, Macedonia, Norway, Switzerland, the 28 EU member states, and the United States.
We note Cambodia’s commitment in its constitution to preserve and defend “a multi-party liberal democratic regime guaranteeing human rights and the respect of law.” We recognize Cambodia’s history of cooperation with UN mechanisms and its international human rights commitments and obligations, as demonstrated by its support of the establishment of an OHCHR office in the country and by the ratification of a number of international human rights conventions. We encourage the Cambodian Government to renew its Memorandum of Understanding with OHCHR. We also recognize the steps taken by Cambodia, in response to widespread citizen concerns about the 2013 elections, to initiate reforms of the National Election Committee, voter registry and elections procedures.
Despite these positive steps, we note the concerns expressed by several Special Rapporteurs earlier this year about new impediments to the rights to freedom of opinion and expression, the right to peaceful assembly, and the right to freedom of association. We support their call on Cambodian authorities “to ensure a safe and enabling environment for human rights defenders and civil society, which play a critical role in holding the Government to account and bringing benefits of human rights to the whole of Cambodian society.” We also share the Secretary-General’s desire for the Government of Cambodia to resume political dialogue and to “ensure full respect for human rights, including the freedoms of expression, association, and assembly.”
We are deeply concerned about the current escalation of political tensions in Cambodia, which threatens legitimate activities by opposition parties and human rights NGOs. There is particular concern about the appearance that legal action is being disproportionately pursued against critics of the government. We are equally concerned about the status of “culture of dialogue” between the two main political parties, which has ceased to function. We lament the recent murder of commentator and analyst Kem Ley and note the chilling effect this crime has had upon civil society and independent voices in Cambodia.
We call for a full and transparent investigation into Mr. Ley’s death. More broadly, we call on all the relevant stakeholders to work toward deescalating the tensions and building trust and confidence. We also urge the government to make their utmost efforts to create a political environment in which opposition parties and civil society can all function freely. We also call upon Cambodia to uphold its commitments to the Cambodian people and to the international community to conduct free and fair elections which would ensure the legitimacy of the next government. We stand ready to assist Cambodia and its people to address these concerns in a way that is consistent with international human rights law.
* Ukraine and Liechtenstein supported this statement after delivery.
Sat the 9th Waxing Moon of Poṭṭhapāda B.E.2560, September 10, A.D.2016 Year of the MonkeyFIDH Open LetterFrançois Hollande President of France Élysée Palace Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré 75008 Paris France
Paris, 2 September 2016
Dear Mr. President,
On the occasion of your upcoming visit to Vietnam from 5-7 September, FIDH and its member organizations, the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR) and the French League for Human Rights (LDH), wish to convey their utmost concern over the serious and ongoing human rights violations in Vietnam.
Under the new administration, appointed by the Vietnamese Communist Party’s 12th Congress in January 2016, the authorities have intensified acts of repression against government critics and members of civil society. Activists and human rights defenders have been regularly subjected to physical assault, surveillance, restrictions on their freedom of movement, and arbitrary arrest and detention. In the latest case indicative of this trend, in August 2016, authorities extended the pre-trial detention of human rights lawyer Nguyen Van Dai to 12 months. Dai was arbitrarily arrested in December 2015, on the eve of the EU-Vietnam human rights dialogue for giving training on human rights.In addition, courts have continued to sentence activists and human rights defenders to prison terms for merely exercising their right to freedom of expression, such as prominent blogger Nguyen Huu Vinh, also known as Anh Ba Sam, condemned to five years in prison in March 2016.Over the past four months, authorities have violently cracked down on a wave of nationwide peaceful protests organized in response to an unprecedented environmental disaster that caused massive fish deaths and seriously affected the livelihood of many communities in Vietnam’s central provinces. In many cases, security forces severely beat and arbitrarily arrested scores of participants.
As a result of the ongoing repression of government critics, Vietnam has now the dubious distinction of holding the largest number of political prisoners among Southeast Asian countries. Vietnam currently has approximately 130 dissidents behind bars.
A particularly emblematic case is that of Thich Quang Do, the head of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (an independent religious group arbitrarily banned since 1981), who is currently under house arrest in Ho Chi Minh City. Thich Quang Do, a Nobel Peace Prize nominee, has been subjected to various forms of arbitrary detention for over 30 years.
We urge you to press Vietnam’s leaders to order the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners and to end all acts of harassment against activists and human rights defenders.
Existing legislation criminalizes the exercise of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, the right to freedom of peaceful assembly, and the right to freedom of religion or belief. Of particular concern are broadly-interpreted “national security” provisions in the Criminal Code that provide the legal means for the authorities’ relentless repression of dissent. These provisions, several of which make no distinction between acts of terrorism and expression of peaceful dissent, and prescribe the death penalty, are inconsistent with Vietnam’s international obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
Recent amendments to the Criminal Code, approved in November 2015, abolished the death penalty for seven crimes. However, 18 offenses still carry the death penalty. We urge you to call on Vietnam’s leaders to take urgent steps to abolish the death penalty for all crimes.
Another issue of concern is the draft Law on Belief and Religion that will be voted very soon. If adopted in its current form (draft dated 8 August 2016), this law will be a serious step backwards for freedom of religion and belief in Vietnam and would violate the country’s international obligations under Article 18 of the ICCPR. The proposed law would legalize state interference in religious life by introducing a draconian system of registration for religious groups. The draft law would exacerbate restrictions on members of “non-recognized” religious groups, who already suffer harassment and arbitrary arrest and detention.
We encourage you to raise the above-mentioned issues in your dialogue with President Tran Dai Quang and Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc and demand that the government respect, promote, and fulfill human rights principles in accordance with the country’s international obligations and the numerous recommendations made by various human rights mechanisms of the United Nations.
We hope that a message in support of independent civil society will resonate during your address at the Vietnam National University in Hanoi. As more Vietnamese, especially Vietnamese youth, make increasing demands for democratic reforms and respect for human rights and the rule of law, it is important to show that France stands with them.
‘Liberty, equality, and fraternity’ are not outdated concepts. These words convey fundamental values to which France must remain committed. France must promote these values in a country where severe obstacles to the full enjoyment of key civil and political rights still remain.
We thank you for your attention on this important matter.
Dimitris Christopoulos FIDH President
(International Federation for Human Rights)
Tue the 5th Waxing Moon of Poṭṭhapāda B.E.2560, September 6, A.D.2016 Year of the Monkey
OHCHR spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani. Photo: UN Multimedia
6 September 2016 – Expressing concern over recent incidents of intimidation of opposition politicians and their supporters, civil society, and peaceful demonstrators in Cambodia, the United Nations human rights arm has called on the authorities to create an environment that is conducive to the enjoyment of human rights.
“An increase in rhetoric by high-level army officials, who have vowed to defend the ruling party against political opposition, is deeply worrying,” Ravina Shamdasani, a spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), said at a regular press briefing in Geneva today, referring to a strong show of force recently conducted by the country’s armed forces at the headquarters of the main opposition party, the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP).
“We remind the Government of its duty to take measures to ensure the safety of all Cambodians, particularly high profile political opponents,” she added.
The UN Spokesperson also said that the Government has invoked concerns about public security to block peaceful protests and to arrest and charge demonstrators, and that, yesterday, the authorities set up roadblocks and mobilized troops in an attempt to block a CNRP event and arrested some 20 people in connection with two unrelated protests in the capital Phnom Penh.
“We urge the Government to create an environment conducive to the enjoyment of freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association, which are particularly critical in a pre-electoral context,” added Ms. Shamdasani, referring to the local and national elections to be held in 2017 and 2018.
Additionally, referring to a number of legal charges brought against CNRP’s Acting President, Kem Sokha and 29 other members or supporters of the party, fourteen of them have been convicted and given heavy prison sentences, she urged the authorities to strictly adhere to international fair trial standards during the criminal proceedings, including ensuring transparency in the administration of justice.