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[Statement] Request for effective measures for the extension of the mandate of Mr. Surya Prasad Subedi, the Special Rapporteur of the UN Human Rights Council for Human Rights in Cambodia.

7 September 2009


Dear Minister for Foreign Affairs Hirofumi Nakasone,

The intent of the statement
We request the Japanese government to take every effective measure for the extension of the mandate of Mr. Surya Prasad Subedi, the Special Rapporteur of the UN Human
Rights Council for Human Rights in Cambodia.

The background and reasons for the request

1. The Special Rapporteur system and current status

Cambodia has
committed serious violations of human rights including the massacres of the 1970's. Since UN Human Rights Council was the UN Commission on Human Rights, the United Nations has been monitoring human rights in Cambodia, using Special Rapporteurs to protect and promote human rights. The Japanese government has worked on peace building in Cambodia and continues to strongly support UN efforts.

Mr, Yash Ghai, the Special Rapporteur from 2005 to 2008, took various approaches, including active criticism of the Cambodian government's violation of human rights. However, the relationship between the Cambodian government and Mr. Ghai was aggravated by some of his aggressive approaches. Last year, Surya Prasad Subedi was elected to be the new Special Rapporteur to engage in a constructive manner for one year1.

The UN Human Rights Council will decide whether to extend his mandate at its twelfth session in September. However, the extension of his mandate cannot be expected.

Human Rights Now, an international human rights NGO based in Tokyo, has monitored the human rights situation in Cambodia, and considers his assignment of continuing importance and recommends that it should be extended for reasons outlined below.

2. Serious concern for the human rights situation in Cambodia

Since the Paris Agreement, Cambodian politics and economics have been relatively stable. However, Cambodians face other disturbing violations of human rights, such as the suppression of human rights activists' freedom of expression, and attacks on them, some of which have resulted in death.

As the economic gap widens, human rights violations against the poor, including forced evictions and human trafficking, are rapidly increasing.

In 2006, with the Japanese government's support, "Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia" was created to try cases of human rights abuse in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge. However, Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea, who seemed to bear most of the responsibility for the human rights abuses, have not yet been charged.

The special court is currently entering crucial stages to carry out fair punishments for past human rights abuses and to prevent recurrence of further human rights abuses.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has made negative remarks concerning additional prosecutions in the special court, which remains at risk for political influence.

3. Violation of freedom of expression, democracy, and judicial independence

(1) In recent years, criminal defamation cases which government officials file concerning political voices and actions of politicians, human rights activists, journalists, and other government critics, have been increasing. Government officials have also sued many Diet members for defamation.
Five prominent human rights activists were arrested on charges of defamation with their banner displayed at a rally to mark Human Rights Day in December, 2005. The arrest led to international criticism because of the obvious suppression of free speech.
(2) This year, freedoms of speech and expression have been more seriously compromised.
Mu Sochua, the opposition Sam Rainsy Party (SRP)'s member of the Cambodian parliament, sued Prime Minister Hun Sen for defamation2. Hun Sen was accused of insulting Mu Sochua's honor in a speech he made during a visit to her district Kampot on April 4th.

Hun Sen countersued Mu Sochua for defamation, accusing her of insulting his honor with the complaint. On June 6th, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court dismissed her lawsuit against Hun Sen, claiming that no defamation occurred, while Hun Sen's counter-suit which his lawyer Ky Tech filed against her proceeded. On June 22th, 2009, the National Assembly stripped Mu Sochua of her parliamentary immunity.
The Phnom Penh Municipal Court ruled that Mu Sochua was guilty of defaming Hun Sen and ordered her to pay a fine of US$4,1003.

Since the lawsuit against Mu Sochua, ruling party officials have filed lawsuits against SRP's party leader Sam Rainsy, SRP member Ho Vann; and a journalist of a SRP-affiliated newspaper Heng Chakra. SRP member Cheam Channy was convicted in a trial in 2005, after his parliamentary immunity was revoked. Ruling-party officials' accusations and prosecution for defamation against opposition members weaken free discussions about public matters. They also threaten all citizens' freedom of expression and democracy.

(3) The Cambodian government and its officials should respond to criticism and commentary from society. They should not suppress and intimidate criticism with criminal punishment. The guarantee of free speech and political behavior is the main premise of democracy. Investigation and criminal prosecution of Diet members and citizens having different views from the government for defaming ruling-party and administration officials as individuals do not make sense.

It is unfair that legal judgment on Prime Minister Hun Sen was the complete opposite of the judgment on Mu Chua, even though both which were defamation lawsuits. It became clear that the courts are still not independent in implementing judicial procedures.

4. Conclusion
As stated above, the worsening human rights situation in Cambodia demonstrates the need for the UN's active role in its improvement. Termination of the Special Rapporteur's assignment at this particular time will give the wrong message to the Cambodian government, and will make the situation worse.
The UN special procedures should be continued in order not to undermine the efforts exerted by UN, governments, and donors for improvement of Cambodian human rights situation. The one-year term is too short for Surya Prasad Subedi to create results with a "constructive" way in his assignment

UN special procedures in Cambodia were undertaken with agreement of the Cambodian government, so the intentions and understanding from the government are strongly needed. Japan has worked for reconstruction and improvement of human rights and democracy in Cambodia, and established friendly relations. Human Rights Now asks the Japanese government to take the initiative and call on the UN Human Rights Council to renew the mandate of the Special Rapporteur in its twelfth session.

The Special Rapporteur's mandate should be extended to provide time for him to better acquaint himself with the human rights situation in Cambodia and present recommendations to improve the situation.