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MORNING - Rights Council: the Democratic Republic of the Congo Continues to be Compounded by Attacks by Armed Groups against Civilians, while in Cambodia, the Monopolisation of Power by the Ruling Elite and Constraints Imposed Undermine the Quest for Democracy

Meeting Summaries

 

Council Concludes General Debate on Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Forms of Intolerance

The Human Rights Council this morning opened its agenda item 10 on technical assistance and capacity building, holding an enhanced interactive dialogue on the situation of human rights in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and starting an interactive dialogue on the situation of human rights in Cambodia. It also concluded its general debate on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance, follow-up to and implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.

Nada Al-Nashif, United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, provided an oral update on the human rights situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. She said the human rights situation had not improved significantly since the last update before this Council as it continued to be compounded by increased and persistent attacks by armed groups against civilians, notably in the eastern provinces. The authorities should take strong measures to stop this spiral of violence, uphold the rule of law and ensure that the perpetrators of these serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law were held to account. On a positive note, she welcomed the suppression of the Military Operational Court and efforts to support military justice.

Albert Fabrice Puela, Minister of Human Rights of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, reaffirmed the Government’s commitment to the implementation of transitional justice in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the creation of a national reparation fund for victims of serious crimes. Transitional justice should also contribute to the prevention of new conflicts, the consolidation of democracy and the re-establishment of the rule of law, all on a new consensual basis. Transitional justice was essential to break the vicious circle of violence that had persisted in the country for many years. The Government remained committed to a process aimed at making the promotion and protection of human rights a catalyst for its action.

Bacre Ndiaye, member of the Team of International Experts, said there was a need for truth - without this, rumours and incitation to revenge-based violence were hard to combat. There was a need for mutual tolerance, which could only exist if it existed in the legal and judicial spheres. For efforts to be sustainable, they must be based on development projects that brought people together. There should be a road map that was consistent and coherent and allowed for national and international support at a massive scale.

Dominique Kambala, Director General of the Congolese Society for the Rule of Law, said the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo was marked by persistent insecurity, particularly in the eastern part of the country, despite the launch of military operations. The Democratic Republic of the Congo was concerned about how to manage the heavy burden of the past, marked by serious atrocities, which had been reported on by the Expert Team. Given this painful legacy, the Government had opted for transitional justice, with national consultations, which were a decisive step in implementing this political will.

In the discussion on the Democratic Republic of the Congo, speakers said the slight decline in violations and assaults on rights was welcomed, nevertheless the overall human rights situation continued to be alarming, including sexual and gender-based violence and executions in certain provinces. Despite the efforts deployed by the Democratic Republic of the Congo, including the transitional justice policy, progress in executing the Peace, Truth and Justice Project was affected by the situation, in particular in the provinces suffering from the armed conflict. The Government was urged to re-double its efforts to improve the human rights situation, and to implement a clear, time-limited exit strategy from the state of siege, improve coordination with partners to protect civilians, and commit to protecting political space while building institutional support and accountability for human rights.

Speaking in the discussion on the Democratic Republic of the Congo were the European Union, Sweden (on behalf of a group of countries), Côte d'Ivoire (on behalf of the African Group), Egypt, Senegal, France, Venezuela, Luxembourg, China, Netherlands, Angola, Benin, United States, Belgium, United Kingdom, Ireland and Italy.

Also speaking were: Ensemble Contre la Peine de Mort, Minority Rights Group, Rencontre Africaine pour la defense des droits de l'homme, Organisation internationale pour les pays les moins avancés (OIPMA) , International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, World Organisation Against Torture, and Amnesty International.

The Council then began an interactive dialogue with Vitit Muntarbhorn, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia, who said the first part of his oral update highlighted immediate concerns pertaining to the issue of political space leading up to the Commune elections in June 2022. The second part reiterated and augmented concerns, following key developments over the past nine months. The monopolisation of power by the ruling elite and constraints imposed, particularly on civil and political rights, undermined the quest for democracy. To be fair, there had been some gains along the way.

Cambodia, speaking as a country concerned, said despite genuine cooperation, the report did not set the record straight and was far from flawless in terms of objectivity, impartiality, balance and non-selectivity. Cambodia challenged the Special Rapporteur’s indictment that its human rights and democracy was intimidating and disconcerting. To the fair and moderate observers, Cambodia should have been assessed based on where it came from and where it was now.

Cambodia remained resolute in the continued work with all partners to promote and protect human rights for all within the rule of law, to advance sustainable development, and to uphold its hard-won peace, cherished by its people.

In the discussion on Cambodia, speakers said there were concerns about shrinking civic space and limitations of rights to freedom of assembly and expression, including for human rights defenders, trade union members and media. The efforts made in the promotion of women’s and children’s rights were noted, and that Cambodia had started to implement electoral reforms in recent years, taking into account recommendations made. Cambodia should comply with its human rights obligations, and in particular lift restrictions on civic and political space and media, and reduce unnecessary COVID-19 restrictions in order to allow further steps towards democracy, rule of law, free and meaningful participation of its citizens. Genuine dialogue and cooperation were fundamental pillars of the work of the Council, and only through these could progress be made, with full respect for the sovereignty of States and without interference in their domestic affairs.

Speaking in the discussion on Cambodia were Finland (on behalf of a group of countries), European Union, Cambodia (on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations), Brunei Darussalam, Philippines, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Egypt, Japan, France, Venezuela, Viet Nam, China, Switzerland, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Australia, Belarus, United States, United Kingdom, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Yemen, United Arab Emirates, Mauritania, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, New Zealand and Turkey.

At the beginning of the meeting, the Council concluded the general debate on agenda item nine, on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance, follow-up and implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.

Speakers said that the Council should call on all Governments to end religious discrimination and ensure the safety of minority religions. The foundations of racism included skin colour, nationality, culture, caste, religion, and social class. Governments should try to narrow the circle of difference between tribes and different factions of society, with a positive role in rejecting racism and discrimination, imposing penalties between those who sought to stir up strife, and encouraging children to be educated with the correct ideas implanted in their minds.

Speaking in the discussion on agenda item nine were Association pour l'Intégration et le Développement Durable au Burundi , Integrated Youth Empowerment - Common Initiative Group (I.Y.E. – C.I.G.), Mother of Hope Cameroon Common Initiative Group, Prahar, Human Is Right, Centre for Human Rights and Peace Advocacy, Centre for Gender Justice and Women Empowerment, Union of Northwest Human Rights Organisation, Tumuku Development and Cultural Union (TACUDU), International Human Rights Council, Japan Society for History Textbook, Community Human Rights and Advocacy Centre (CHRAC), Organisation pour la Communication en Afrique et de Promotion de la Cooperation Economique Internationale - OCAPROCE Internationale , and International Council of Russian Compatriots (ICRC).

The webcast of the Human Rights Council meetings can be found here. All meeting summaries can be found here. Documents and reports related to the Human Rights Council’s forty-ninth regular session can be found here.

The Council will reconvene this afternoon at 3 p.m. to conclude the interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia, followed by an interactive dialogue on the report of the High Commissioner on technical assistance and capacity building for South Sudan pursuant to Council resolution 46/29, and an interactive dialogue with the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Mali.

General Debate on Agenda Item Nine on Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Forms of Intolerance, Follow-Up to and Implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action

The general debate on agenda item nine on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance, follow-up to and implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, started on Monday, 28 March and a summary can be found here and here.

General Debate

Speakers said that at a time when the entire world was fighting the impact of COVID-19, it should be unlikely to develop a feeling of hatred against the people of one’s own country, and yet this still occurred, with concomitant abuse and discrimination. One speaker raised the situation of indigenous and other people in India, who suffered various forms of discrimination, urging the Council to communicate with the Government of India to improve the situation. The Durban Declaration was an historic document, urging the elimination of discrimination against all minorities, and yet some of those who had ratified it had not taken the steps to do so. It was 11 years since the Human Rights Council had adopted a resolution urging all to address intolerance and discrimination based on religion and belief and its rule causes, and yet this phenomenon continued to grow, being the cause of countless human rights violations. The Council should call on all Governments to end religious discrimination and ensure the safety of minority religions. Racial profiling increased the denial of rights.

Although human rights and freedoms were fundamental and universal, violations were becoming commonplace in some countries, including Pakistan, a speaker said, where the inhabitants of Jammu and Kashmir were denied their rights, such as freedom of the press, freedom of expression and freedom of religion, suffering repression and subjugation. There was an alarming disappearance of Pashtun in Jammu and Kashmir, who were tortured and humiliated, forced to live like slaves in the country, with no right to self-determination, as was guaranteed under the United Nations Charter. Russian-phobia and Belarussian-phobia were also growing, a speaker said, urging the members of the Human Rights Council to eradicate this threat.

The foundations of racism included skin colour, nationality, culture, caste, religion, and social class. Governments should try to narrow the circle of difference between tribes and different factions of society, with a positive role in rejecting racism and discrimination, imposing penalties between those who sought to stir up strife, and encouraging children to be educated with the correct ideas implanted in their minds. Despite much effort, racial discrimination still existed in many areas of the world. Allowing caste discrimination to continue was shameful. The elaboration of complementary standards and norms should help to combat the scourge of racism at the international level.

Enhanced Interactive Dialogue on the Oral Updates by the High Commissioner and the Team of International Experts on the Situation of Human Rights in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Opening Statements

NADA AL-NASHIF, United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, provided an oral update on the human rights situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in accordance with resolution 48/20 of the Human Rights Council. The human rights situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo had not improved significantly since the last update before this Council. The country continued to be compounded by increased and persistent attacks by armed groups against civilians, notably in the eastern provinces. Ms. Al-Nashif was particularly worried by the shrinking humanitarian space throughout conflict-affected provinces. Violence had also particularly affected internally displaced persons. The Deputy High Commissioner called on the authorities of the Democratic Republic of Congo to take strong measures to stop this spiral of violence, to uphold the rule of law and to ensure that the perpetrators of these serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law were held to account. On a positive note, she welcomed the suppression of the Military Operational Court and efforts to support military justice in the treatment of additional cases assigned to judges.

Since October 2021, Ms. Al-Nashif continued, many efforts had indeed been made by the authorities of the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the fight against impunity for human rights violations. She encouraged the Government to ensure that all perpetrators of serious violations were held accountable, regardless of their rank or affiliation. The Deputy High Commissioner reiterated her opposition to the use of the death penalty in all circumstances. Noting the de facto moratorium on the imposition of the death penalty in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, she called on the authorities to maintain this moratorium and to consider abolishing it in law. She welcomed the significant progress made in managing the crisis in the Kasai region, including the establishment of a provincial Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission - however, the prioritisation of serious cases by the military justice system with the support of international partners, including the United Nations Joint Human Rights Office, remained key. She was concerned about the slow pace of criminal prosecutions, nearly six years after the crisis outbreak and she hoped that with the continued support of her Office and partners to judicial authorities, progress would be made towards the realisation of the right to justice of victims. She was similarly encouraged by the positive developments recorded in recent months in the implementation of transitional justice mechanisms throughout the territory of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and she commended these efforts as national consultations offered a unique opportunity for victims and their communities to be heard and take part in the decisions affecting them.

In conclusion, the Deputy High Commissioner explained that while the Congolese people were heading towards elections in 2023, the process was facing delays, including in electoral reforms, and was affected by tensions related to the appointment of members of the Electoral Commission. She called on the Government to take all measures to ensure that the process was non-violent, transparent, inclusive and credible. The leadership of the Government was needed to ensure that they were presented during the current session of the parliament. Against this backdrop, the Democratic Republic of the Congo continued to witness the spread of hate speech and incitement to hostility, with the risk of widespread ethnic and political tension and violence.

ALBERT FABRICE PUELA, Minister of Human Rights of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, underlined some of the changes that the Democratic Republic of the Congo had been through, starting with the renewal and extension of the mandate of the Team of International Experts on the situation in Kasai to the whole of the Congolese territory. In addition, the draft law on "trafficking in persons, amending and supplementing the decree of 30 January 1940 on the Congolese Penal Code on the prevention and repression of trafficking in persons" was scheduled to be debated during the current March session. This very important law would enable the Democratic Republic of the Congo to move up to the first third of the American State Department's ranking on "trafficking in persons". The Minister also noted that the adopted law on the protection and promotion of the rights of people living with disabilities was a good example of a good practice. Another important step forward was the finalisation of the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s accession process to the Voluntary Principles Initiative on Security and Human Rights in the Extractive Sector.

In order to address the dual problem of consolidating of State authority by improving the human rights situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and optimising the allocation of resources in this sector, it was deemed necessary to provide the Ministry of Human Rights with a strategic development framework, known as the "Human Rights Sector Strategy", which was a first in the history of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The implementation of this document, through its operational action plan, would allow for a harmonious development of the sector by bringing together the progress and reforms made within the Ministry and the development of the country at all levels.

In conclusion, the Minister reaffirmed the Government’s commitment to the implementation of transitional justice in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the creation of a national reparation fund for victims of serious crimes. Indeed, the aim of transitional justice was to promote the dynamics of reform and reconciliation in societies emerging from armed conflict or from a period marked by large-scale crimes. Transitional justice should also contribute to the prevention of new conflicts, the consolidation of democracy and the re-establishment of the rule of law, all on a new consensual basis. Transitional justice was therefore essential to break the vicious circle of violence that had persisted in the Democratic Republic of Congo for many years. The Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo therefore remained committed to a process aimed at making the promotion and protection of human rights a catalyst for its action.

BACRE NDIAYE, Member of the Team of International Experts, said this was the team’s first report since the mandate was extended to the whole of the country. After interpreting the mandate, he and Ms. Keta-Bocoum had worked to help the Government implement their plan for transitional justice, worked to combat impunity, and visited the country to learn to how to implement transitional justice. There was a need for truth - without this, rumours and incitation to revenge-based violence were hard to combat. There was a need for mutual tolerance, which could only exist if it existed in the legal and judicial spheres. For efforts to be sustainable, they must be based on development projects that brought people together. Capacity building to combat corruption was a key element in ensuring policies that would bring about the progressive disengagement of the United Nations mission.

Capacity building for administrators, judges and police officers needed to be deployed to all different communities to settle their differences peaceably. The inclusion in the delegation of the young student from the Twa community was appreciated, as this was a community that faced many problems with regard to the rule of law. There should be a road map that was consistent and coherent and allowed for national and international support on a massive scale. In the judicial sector, there had been efforts made to recruit 2,000 judges, including for military justice, and efforts had been made to give the civilian justice sector a positive role in the country. Many voices had been raised to call for mixed jurisdictions and courts with the increased intervention of the International Criminal Court, but there was a need for sustainable efforts. There should be increased capacity building at the national level.

DOMINIQUE KAMBALA, Director General of the Congolese Society for the Rule of Law, said the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo was marked by persistent insecurity, particularly in the eastern part of the country, despite the launch of military operations. The civilian population continued to suffer from deadly violence, with acts perpetrated by armed groups and their accomplices, while the commitments made by the Government were not kept, as there were arbitrary detentions, torture and beatings. It was hoped that civilian justice, which had been seriously tested, would be functional. The human rights situation was marked by the violation of constitutional and legal guarantees on the deprivation of liberty of citizens. The Democratic Republic of the Congo was concerned about how to manage the heavy burden of the past, marked by serious atrocities, which had been reported on by the Team of International Experts. Given this painful legacy, the Government had opted for transitional justice, with national consultations, which were a decisive step on implementing this political will. These consultations must be held in a reasonable timeframe to alleviate the suffering of the victims, and a harmonious formulation must be found to express local experience.

Impunity continued to be triumphant, symbolising the oblivion of the reign of law. The Government should urge the international community to establish an international tribunal or establish special courts within the Congolese judicial system. The population lacked confidence in the judicial system, for a range of reasons, including the lack of judges, resources, guarantee of independence, immunity, and the evasion of prisoners. These showed the lack of capacity and lack of capital will to curb grave crimes committed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. There should be an acceleration of the process of capacity building for the judicial system, which should be provided with resources to bolster its independence, effectiveness and efficiency throughout the whole chain of justice.

Discussion

In the discussion on the Democratic Republic of the Congo, speakers said the slight decline in violations and assaults on human rights was welcomed, nevertheless the overall human rights situation continued to be alarming, including sexual and gender-based violence and executions in certain provinces. Martial law was still being used in a disproportionate way. There was a decrease in the enjoyment of economic, social and political rights. The increase in attacks on civilian camps and on humanitarian workers was also an issue of grave concern. The Human Rights Council was thanked for its efforts to promote and protect human rights in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the cooperation between the Government and the United Nations system was commended. The official launching of national consultations on transitional justice showed the effectiveness of the implementation of this form of justice. The international community and international partners must stand in solidarity with the Government, in particular with regard to internally displaced persons, and take the necessary steps towards the construction of infrastructure.

Despite the efforts deployed by the Democratic Republic of the Congo, including the transitional justice policy, progress in executing the Peace, Truth and Justice Project was affected by the situation, in particular in the provinces suffering from the armed conflict. The Government should protect the victims of armed conflict and bring to justice those guilty for the murder of women and children, strengthen national mechanisms for the promotion and protection of human rights, and support the full respect of economic, social and cultural rights, with closer cooperation between the Government, civil society and the United Nations, to ensure the full protection of all rights. The conflicts were making the humanitarian situation worse and the international community needed to continue to provide aid and assistance, while respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Technical assistance and capacity building, with the consent of the involved State, helped to ensure the promotion and protection of the human rights of all populations. The imposition of unilateral coercive measures should be condemned, as they were not a constructive approach, which was the most appropriate way to ensure the full promotion and protection of human rights in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Government was urged to re-double its efforts to improve the human rights situation, and to implement a clear, time-limited exit strategy from the state of siege, improve coordination with partners to protect civilians, and commit to protecting political space while building institutional support and accountability for human rights.

Concluding Remarks

NADA AL-NASHIF, United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that insecurity had increased all over the Democratic Republic of the Congo. What was really needed was to prioritise social life. Peace and security depended on economic development and poverty needed to be addressed in relation to land and natural resources. Issues of past grievances also needed to be addressed. All those would provide for a most sustainable road to ensure peace. One short term measure to be encouraged was for the Government to strengthen security around the camps. Dialogue must be promoted, as well as a bigger presence of the State and the implementation of the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration programmes. The resurgence of threats and harassment of civil society activists and journalists was worrying on the eve of the upcoming election. The Democratic Republic of the Congo needed support. The efforts of the Government to limit hate speech needed to be recognised. Ms. Al-Nashif was encouraged by the launching of the national consultation by the President. The disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration programmes were yet to be operational but she commended the approach that was individual-centred.

BACRE NDIAYE, Member of the Team of International Experts, said that discrimination in the east of the country, based on ancestral prejudices, needed to be addressed in a multifaceted and concerted way. There were studies on how to better understand the mechanisms underlying this discrimination. It was necessary to combine punitive justice and traditional justice as well as a mix of modern and traditional methods. He called for greater investment to ensure that transitional justice was supported at the institutional level because where the State was not present, groups tended to enter into conflict and there was no neutral mediator anymore.

KETA BOUCOUM, Member of the Team of International Experts, explained that human rights needed to be part of the strategy, and the strategy should follow a road map as well as have support at the national and international levels. Very soon after these commissions were launched, progress would be seen towards implementing transitional justice.

DOMINIQUE KAMBALA, Director General of the Congolese Society for the Rule of Law, recommended that a coherent road map be drawn up. Without resources this would not work, hence resources were needed. Impunity should not focus on small crimes. High-ranking officials were involved in the Kassai, so the process should also include high-ranking officials. Impunity should not be a marketing slogan. Justice should not be only brought to the poor, impunity was necessary at all levels.

ALBERT FABRICE PUELA, Minister of Human Rights of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, said that the Democratic Republic of the Congo was emerging from a very difficult time but he reassured the Council that the will of the Government to improve the situation was very firm. Human rights violations that were reported highlighted systematic and regular violations. He called on the Council to condemn the attacks by M23 as well as the neighbouring State which supported these attacks. This was not in the spirit of the Addis Ababa agreement. He pointed out that the mechanism for the prevention on torture was created in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and that the Government was currently considering how to make it more effective and in line with international standards. The Government was also working in cooperation with human rights mechanisms, in particular with the treaty bodies. The Government would present its initial report to the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities soon.

Concerning the death penalty moratorium, a bill had been put before Parliament and he hoped it would be considered during its March session. On transitional justice, there had been positive measures taken to try and counter the slugishness of military justice and limit the number of abuses against civilians. On the recruitment of children, the Minister stated that the Democratic Republic of the Congo needed the help of the international community as well. Establishments for these children existed but they were in a dire state. The country also needed support to ensure that there was a proper health care system in place in prisons. Transitional justice also needed support to ensure that its implementation was effective. The Government was determined to do more to prosecute criminals and was working on this.

Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Cambodia

VITIT MUNTARBHORN, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia, presenting his oral update, said the first part highlighted immediate concerns pertaining to the issue of political space leading up to the Commune elections in June 2022. The second part reiterated and augmented concerns, following key developments over the past nine months. There were also reflections on technical assistance and capacity building. At the outset, the situation in Cambodia could perhaps be described as straddling a testament and a predicament, with human rights precariously nestled in between. The monopolisation of power by the ruling elite and constraints imposed, particularly on civil and political rights, undermined the quest for democracy. To be fair, there had been some gains along the way. The Peace Accords remained a key lynchpin to guide the preferred path to development in the country.

There had been regression-recession-retrogression in relation to civic space and political space due to what was, in substance, all-intrusive single-party rule. This was based upon a prism of power control and predominance, targeted towards singular self-survival and self-perpetuation. There was all the more need for political parties and civil society to engage in activities in a pluralistic political landscape, grounded on international human rights law, with broad-based monitoring to expose violations and to advocate remedies.

In regard to other human rights, economic, social and cultural issues needed to be attended to so as to ensure recovery and revival, which should be people-based in the post-pandemic phase. During the past year, there had also been issues of deportation or “refoulement” of Cambodian refugees back to Cambodia from abroad, against their will, with returnees detained on arrival. Technical cooperation and capacity building should be appreciated as a two-way flow which was mutually beneficial for partnership building, avoiding a dependency syndrome. The Council was invited to be cautious about the political potholes which lay and lurked along the road ahead, to be tested very soon with the Commune elections in the country. Ultimately, the challenge was for the existing power base to convince the global/local community that it was willing to liberalise, to share and care, in substance rather than in form–(metaphorically) to convert those backbreaking minefields into pathfinding milestones.

Statement by Country Concerned

Cambodia , speaking as a country concerned, said despite genuine cooperation, the report did not set the record straight and was far from flawless in terms of objectivity, impartiality, balance and non-selectivity. The full adherence to the Code of Conduct and improvement of the working methods by the Special Procedures was vital, and should take into account the perspective of the State and national circumstances. The Special Rapporteur should offer, without further delay, concrete evidence backing his claim of the arrest of more than 700 people during the COVID period, and medical proof of an individual he advocated for having autism. The Special Rapporteur did not emphasise that the so-called mass trials involved the call for sedition with cash offer, which was deplored by all. An affiliation with a political party and civil society organizations was not a license to break the law with impunity. Cambodia challenged the Special Rapporteur’s indictment that its human rights and democracy was intimidating and disconcerting. To the fair and moderate observers, Cambodia should have been assessed based on where it came from and where it was now.

The Special Rapporteur’s grievance over the single party rule was unwarranted. The power was elected democratically and constitutionally by the people. All legislations adopted, especially during the COVID-19 period, adhered to the principles of legality, necessity and proportionality with the sole aim of saving life, shielding law-abiding citizens, collecting national revenues and thwarting cybercrimes. Human rights were rarely about a sprint and perfection, but a long-distance run and progress. To conclude, Cambodia remained resolute in the continued work with all partners to promote and protect human rights for all within the rule of law, to advance sustainable development, and to uphold its hard-won peace, cherished by its people.

Discussion

In the ensuing discussion on Cambodia, speakers said there were concerns about shrinking civic space and limitations of rights to freedom of assembly and expression, including for human rights defenders, trade union members and media. As local and national elections were approaching, it was essential that alternative and critical voices were not hindered nor silenced, as opposition parties were a prerequisite of political pluralism. The efforts made in the promotion of women’s and children’s rights were noted, and that Cambodia had started to implement electoral reforms in recent years, taking into account recommendations made. Cambodia should comply with its human rights obligations, and in particular lift restrictions on civic and political space and media, and reduce unnecessary COVID-19 restrictions in order to allow further steps towards democracy, rule of law, and free and meaningful participation of its citizens. The efforts of Cambodia over the past decades to implement human rights and fundamental freedoms were appreciated, but they were still incomplete, in particular concerning restrictions on the freedom of expression. The Government should continue to cooperate with the United Nations and the international community to ensure the universality of all rights.

Cambodia’s efforts to enhance social protection during the pandemic were noted, as were the strides made by Cambodia in fulfilling its obligations under international law and its own Constitution to promote and protect human rights, including progress in the drafting of the law establishing a national human rights institution, with technical assistance from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Targeted and non-politicised technical cooperation that delivered concrete results was vital, while respecting the agency of the Cambodian people. Genuine dialogue and cooperation were fundamental pillars of the work of the Council, and only through these could progress be made, with full respect for the sovereignty and without interference in the domestic affairs of States. Country-specific mandates were tools for manipulation by other States and these mandates should be abolished.

 

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not an official record. English and French versions of our releases are different as they are the product of two separate coverage teams that work independently.

 

HRC22.052E