On behalf of Lawyer’s Rights Watch Canada, Gavin Magrath presented the following statement today to the 33rd session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, Geneva, during the Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Cambodia. You can watch the video through UNTV: LRWC’s statement is #21 at 1:00:54.

Oral Statement to the 33rd Session of the UN Human Rights Council from Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada (LRWC), NGO in special consultative status, Interactive Dialogue on the Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia

Mr. President:

Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada welcomes the report of the Special Rapporteur and underlines Dr. Smith’s concern about “overt and covert restrictions on civil society actors and human rights defenders.”[1]

The Cambodian government’s crackdown on critics and human rights defenders is deeply troubling. Since this 33rd Session of Council began, another five human rights defenders have been convicted of criminal offences in unfair trials, and sentenced to jail,[2] including human rights lawyer, Mr. Ny Chakrya, and four women land rights defenders, Ms. Tep Vanny, Ms. Heng Mom, Ms. Kong Chantha and Ms. Bo Chhorvy. On 10 July 2016, Dr. Kem Ley became the latest critic of the government to be assassinated, with subsequent inadequate investigation.[3]

Despite more than two decades of technical assistance since the Paris Peace Accords, impunity for murders of critics and defenders continues, and Cambodia’s government continues to abuse laws and utilize corrupt[4] and non-independent courts to harass critics and rights defenders. Cambodia has neither cooperated with nor implemented recommendations of UN treaty bodies and Special Procedures Mandate holders. Dr. Smith noted that Cambodia has not replied to her urgent appeals and allegation letters, and that she finds herself reiterating the findings of previous mandate holders.

We concur with the recent statement to Council in which 39 States jointly called on Cambodia to “ensure a safe and enabling environment for human rights defenders and civil society.”[5] We request all members of this Council, individually and collectively, to denounce Cambodia’s rights violations, and to urge Cambodia to renew its Memorandum of Understanding with the OHCHR, and implement all legal and institutional reforms recommended by UN bodies and mechanisms.

Thank you, Mr. President.


[1] Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia, Rhona Smith, Human Rights Council,  A/HRC/33/62. August 2016, available at: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/RegularSessions/Session33/Documents/A_HRC_33_62_en.docx

[2] Cambodia Sentences 4 Rights Activists to Six Months in Prison, VOA, 19 September 2016, http://www.voanews.com/a/cambodia-sentences-4-rights-activists-to-six-moths-in-prison/3515124.html;  LICADHO, Civil Society Condemns Conviction of Human Rights Defender Ny Chakrya, 22 September 2016, http://www.licadho-cambodia.org/pressrelease.php?perm=409

[3] LRWC, Cambodia: International Law Duties to Investigate Serious Human Rights Violations, Report, 18 August 2016, www.lrwc.org/?p=10613

[4] International Bar Association (IBA), “IBAHRI report highlights extent of corruption in the Cambodian judiciary,” IBA, 17 September 2015, available at http://tinyurl.com/qcjllb3

[5] Item 2 General Debate, Human Rights Situation in Cambodia: Joint Statement, 14 September 2016;  https://geneva.usmission.gov/2016/09/14/human-rights-situation-in-cambodia-joint-statement/