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Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur for Cambodia
September 25, 2013

Interactive Dialogue with the SR for Cambodia
Statement delivered by Ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe
U.S. Representative to the United Nations Human Rights Council

September 25, 2013

Mr.  President,

The United States thanks the Special Rapporteur, Professor Subedi, for his detailed and informative report of August 5, 2013, following his most recent two visits.  We note that he met with civil society and the diverse political groups during both visits, and with senior members of the government on his August 5 visit.

We join the Special Rapporteur in acknowledging that Cambodia has made significant progress since the adoption of the Paris Peace Agreements and concur that Cambodia has taken positive steps in the direction of more representative governance.  We note in particular the granting of a pardon to the leader of the opposition, Mr. Sam Rainsy.  However, we also share the Special Rapporteur’s concern regarding the treatment and criticism the Special Rapporteur received from the government during his December 2012 mission, in which no senior government officials agreed to meet with him.  Although the Special Rapporteur was able to meet with senior Cambodian officials during his most recent visit, the refusal of senior officials to meet with him in December 2012 highlights the government’s need to be open to engaging with the international community on democracy and human rights issues.

The Special Rapporteur noted the slow pace of progress in reforming state institutions responsible for protecting and promoting human rights, and the need to accelerate judicial, parliamentary, and electoral reforms.  We share those concerns, particularly regarding the dismissal of 29 opposition members of parliament on June 5, a move that could be construed as an effort to repress the opposition on the eve of the official electoral campaigning season.  We support Cambodia’s aim of creating a multiparty democracy, but more needs to be done to create a level electoral playing field.  This includes reforming the National Election Committee and improving the integrity of the voter registration system and voter list.  It also includes ensuring all candidates have equal access to the media, and can organize, campaign, and speak out on sensitive issues without fear of politically motivated retribution.  The government should also enhance the ability of all represented parties to contribute constructively to processes in the National Assembly.

We appreciate the Special Rapporteur’s attention to the absence of judicial independence in Cambodia, and join in his call for the government to adopt laws in three fundamental areas:  the status of judges and prosecutors, the organization of the courts, and the reform of the Supreme Council of Magistracy.  A robust, independent judiciary is essential for the public to develop trust in government institutions as a means to provide effective remedies for human rights violations and other wrongdoing.

The Special Rapporteur also noted the challenges surrounding land issues, a concern we share – in particular the prevalence of forced evictions and land appropriations that have resulted in an increased number of land protests, as well as violence.  We note the government’s positive step in establishing a land titling program, and encouraging the government to strengthen land management mechanisms so that all members of society can share the benefits of economic growth.

We thank the Special Rapporteur for his work and call on the Cambodian government to continue its cooperation with him in the implementation of his mandate.