The Cambodian government accepted 173 UPR recommendations but rejected key recommendations on civil and political rights. This is not surprising, as the Hun Sen government is in the midst of its biggest attack in a generation on the media, NGOs, opposition politicians and critical voices. To excuse these violations, the government claims that the executive “does not interfere in the work of judges and prosecutors.”
The Cambodian people were deprived of free and fair national elections in 2018. After government-controlled courts dissolved the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), the ruling Cambodian People’s Party won all seats in the National Assembly, making Cambodia a one-party state country. Longtime opposition leader Sam Rainsy remains in exile after politically motivated convictions, while CNRP chairman Kem Sokha remains under house arrest after a year in prison on false treason charges.
We are appalled to read the government’s false statement that there are currently no political prisoners in Cambodia; in fact, there are more than 35. Since early 2019, local authorities and prosecutors have summoned more than 145 former local opposition leaders and activists. Activists and journalists continue to risk harassment and imprisonment for their work and for speaking out courageously. Government criticism on Facebook has resulted in arrests.
In its previous UPR in 2014, the government pledged to revise existing laws to meet international standards, but it has since passed new repressive legislation and amended other laws to further restrict freedom of expression, meeting and association. This includes the Law on NGOs, the Law on Trade Unions, the Law on Telecommunications, a lÃ¨se majestÃ© clause of the penal code, amendments to the Constitution and a national decree allowing the authorities to remove and block online content on the basis of undefined and broad grounds. We are also concerned about the announcement of a fake news and cybersecurity bill, which could spell the end of online freedom in Cambodia.
The Cambodian government should back off and accept all UPR recommendations relating to civil and political rights, including dropping all politically motivated criminal charges, releasing political prisoners, and changing or repealing repressive laws that restrict fundamental rights. This Council should hold them to account if they fail to do so.