Tuesday, May 24, 2011

NGO pressure mounts

Cambodia's controversial NGO law is being drafted for a third time, the government confirmed yesterday, as the number of organisations slamming the latest public version of the legislation neared 600.

Critics have stated that the legislation would cripple Cambodian civil society if it were adopted, citing provisions that would outlaw unregistered voluntary organisations, force foreign NGOs to collaborate with the government and leave government involvement in NGO activities unchecked.

The outcry intensified last month after the Ministry of Interior released a second draft that failed to address concerns expressed by civil society, and Nouth Sa An, secretary of state at the ministry, said he would advance the draft to the Council of Ministers in the first week of April.

This has yet to happen but 574 NGOs have now added to the pressure by declaring the second draft “unacceptable” in a statement released yesterday by the Cooperation Committee for Cambodia.

The organisations “are very concerned that the law in its second draft gives far-reaching power to the authorities to control the rights of citizens to organise and express themselves”, the statement said.

The United States said last month that the legislation was “emblematic” of efforts around the world to restrict civil society, and told the government during a meeting with international donors that the law could jeopardise financial assistance.

The World Bank also called for further discussion on the law during the meeting.

Mey Narath, deputy director of the political affairs department at the Ministry of Interior, said yesterday that the ministry was preparing a third draft, but did not know whether it would be shared publicly.

He indicated, however, that the government had already taken NGO concerns into account.

“Before, the Ministry of Interior sent the draft law to NGOs and [embassies] for discussion many times, and the ministry has collected recommendations for examination,” he said.

Nouth Sa An said yesterday that he was aware of NGO criticisms of the legislation but had “resolved the problems already”.

Last week, he said that he planned to meet with Deputy Prime Minister Sok An to discuss changes to the proposed law before sending it to the Council of Ministers.

Lun Borithy, executive director of CCC, said yesterday he believed that “the majority of active NGOs are in support” of the joint statement.

The paramount concern, he said, was to see the new version of the law.

“Civil society is keen to see the third draft before it’s heading to the Council of Ministers, something we’ve been promised,” he said. He added that Nouth Sa An said during a meeting earlier this year that if a third draft was produced, it would be shared.

“The ministry said that we would get a glimpse of the third draft, and that hasn’t materialised yet,” Lun Borithy said.

Consultation after the law is passed on to the Council of Ministers is not expected.

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Friday, May 20, 2011

Statement: Civil Society Expresses Concern over Recent Developments in the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, and Urges the International Community to Speak Out

Civil Society Expresses Concern over Recent Developments in the
Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, and Urges the International Community to Speak Out
Phnom Penh, 19 May 2011
We, the undersigned members of civil society, are deeply concerned over recent developments at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) in relation to the ongoing prosecution and investigations in Cases 003 and 004.   We are concerned that the mandate of the court – to bring to trial senior leaders and those most responsible for Khmer Rouge atrocities – is at risk of not being genuinely carried out. 
We urge all stakeholders – victims of Khmer Rouge atrocities, donors, the Cambodian government, and the United Nations – to ensure that justice is done and is seen to be done by the ECCC. 
We urge all those concerned to ensure that the goal of the ECCC is carried out and the overall legacy of the ECCC is serving as a model for rule of law development in Cambodia.
All ECCC judges – whether Cambodian or international - are required to be persons of high moral character, to possess a spirit of impartiality and integrity, and to be fully independent in the performance of their functions.  They are prohibited from accepting or seeking any instructions from any government or any other source.  The ECCC’s Co-Prosecutors are subject to the same standards. The recent developments at the ECCC pertaining to Cases 003 and 004 compounds our grave concerns that the impartiality, integrity, and the independence of ECCC judges are being tainted. 
Cambodians have a right to know what happened at the hands of the Khmer Rouge.  Within this “right to know” implies access to the truth about what happened during the Khmer Rouge era.  One of the functions being fulfilled by the ECCC is to create an historical record about what happened.  It is imperative that this record is as complete and accurate as possible.  The ECCC must safeguard against any creation of negationist or revisionist records about what happened.
Cambodians have a right to justice.  This includes the right of victims to meaningful participation in the justice process – at all stages of the proceedings.  In order to effectively exercise this right, all Cambodians need access to publicly available information. Ample information can be provided to victims while safeguarding the rights of those alleged to have perpetrated Khmer Rouge atrocities according to the highest international standards.  International Co-Prosecutor, Andrew Cayley, provided some basic factual information about Case 003 in his press statement of 9 May 2011.  However, this information was not timely enough for civil society to effectively carry out its functions in respect of victim participation.  Cambodian civil society urgently requires additional information and time in order to be able to effectively represent the interests of the Cambodian people in Cases 003 and 004.
We, the undersigned, remain hopeful of the promise the ECCC holds in setting and maintaining standards for rule of law development in Cambodia.  The rule of law, democracy, the principle of separation of powers and the independence and impartiality of judges are interconnected.  For Cambodians, therefore, it is absolutely imperative that the ECCC – a court within the domestic justice system, and applying both Cambodian and international law – serves as a real role model for the future. 
We urge all concerned individuals and groups to take appropriate action to ensure that the Case 003 and 004 investigations are full and genuine; to ensure that an accurate historical record is created by the ECCC; to ensure that Cambodians have access to justice, and to the truth about Khmer Rouge atrocities; and to ensure that the right of victims to meaningful participation in the proceedings is effectively guaranteed.

Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee (CHRAC)
Address: # 9E0, St. 330, Sangkat Boeung Keng Kong III,
Khan. Chamcar Morn, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
855 23 218 759 , Tel: 855 23 301 415 , 305 609
chrac@forum.org.kh or chracsecretariat@yahoo.com
Web: http://www.chrac.org

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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

ICNL issued its quartely newsletter related to NGOs Law in Cambodia

As discussed above, the Royal Government of Cambodia should respect and be consistent with the norms contained in international covenants and declarations upholding the freedom of association and individual rights to which Cambodia is a signatory and a member. Cambodia has existing laws which cover many NGOs activities; discussed in chapter 1 point 2, above. If the government genuinely intends to build a development partnership with the sector, any new legislation should be designed to strengthen and empower the sector, protect NGOs’ interests, and provide support to sustain the sector.
A few simple suggestions for improving the present regulatory regime:
  • The registration application should be directly filed with the Ministry of Interior, without going through the hierarchy of local authorities. Only a single registration should be required.
  • Dissolution: Unauthorized illegal actions on the part of NGO staff should be adjudicated by the courts as ultra vires, not undertaken by the organizations itself, and, barring a finding of impropriety, wrongdoing, or lack of proper supervision on the part of the organization, should not serve as grounds for dissolution.
  • The government could not limit the area or region for NGOs to work. Such restrictions constitute a breach of freedom of association provided in both the constitution and also the international treaties that Cambodia has ratified. It is expressly in the public interest for NGOs to freely carry out lawful activities within the territory of Cambodia.
Finally, any law affecting civil society drafted for Parliament’s consideration should be released for public scrutiny and consultation on its content.

For detail information, please click herehttp://www.icnl.org/knowledge/ijnl/vol13iss1/index.htm

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