Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Report on the human rights impact of economic and other land concessions in Cambodia

25 September 2012 - The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia, Surya Subedi, has released an assessment report on the human rights impact of economic and other land concessions in Cambodia. The report is an addendum to the Special Report's report at the 21st regular session of the Human Rights Council.  


 1. The present report, submitted pursuant to Human Rights Council resolution 18/25, describes the activities of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Cambodia from July 2011 to June 2012.

2. The OHCHR presence in Cambodia, mandated by the Commission on Human Rights in its resolution 1993/6, continued to provide assistance to the Government and to the people of Cambodia in promoting and respecting human rights. During the period under review, the OHCHR programme of cooperation with the Government, civil society and the development community continued to focus on five areas: support for prison reform; the protection of fundamental freedoms and the development of civil society; the protection of rights relating to land and housing; support for legal and judicial reform; and promoting the legacy of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia.

3. In accordance with its mandate, OHCHR continued to work with Government partners in a spirit of constructive dialogue and mutual respect. As the activities reflected in the present report demonstrate, OHCHR has proven to be a sound source of technical expertise on human rights issues that continue to pose some of the most difficult challenges faced by Cambodia. As much was further evidenced by the Government’s decision to renew for two years, from 1 January 2012, its memorandum of understanding governing the provision of technical assistance by OHCHR. While the Office has favoured bilateral discussions with Government counterparts when raising difficult human right issues, in particular individual cases of human rights violations, on occasion it has raised concern publicly in accordance with the global mandate given to the High Commissioner.

4. The reporting period was notable for a number of reasons, one being the fact that cooperation between the Government and OHCHR has improved in a number of areas since the previous reporting period. This development is welcomed by OHCHR. Much of the cooperation outlined in the present report focuses on bridging the human rights knowledge and capacity gaps in government. The effectiveness of cooperation must, as ever, be judged in terms of its impact on the enjoyment of human rights by all in Cambodia.

5. The Office increased its individual case work during the reporting period, undertaking over 150 individual visits to investigate allegations of human rights violations in all provinces of the country. This work confirmed a number worrying trends, including:

(a) The persistence of a large number of disputes linked to land, and increasing violence on the part of communities protecting their land;

(b) Continuing impunity for serious human rights violations, and rapid arbitrary convictions of human rights defenders;

(c) A marked increase in the use of live ammunition by security forces against people seeking to claim their rights (in the first five months of 2012, OHCHR investigated five instances of injuries caused by live ammunition, two of which resulted in deaths: Chut Wutty, an environmentalist activist, in Koh Kong Province; and Heng Chantha, a 14-year old girl, in Kratie province).

6. Cambodia assumed the chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on 1 January 2012 and, with it, the responsibility for guiding the elaboration of an ASEAN human rights declaration. This resulted in increased national and international attention to human rights issues in the country, particularly during major ASEAN meetings held in Cambodia. Cambodia entered a two-year election period, with commune elections held in June 2012 and national elections scheduled for mid-2013. Although the commune elections were largely free of violence, credible allegations of irregularities were raised.

To download the report, click here.

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