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United Nations: Report of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights in Cambodia

Editor's Note: The text of the document below is has not been modified. However, there is a formatting error in the original document regarding some of the section headings. The section heading for "C: Problem of Impunity" is missing. This heading appears to belong between paragraphs 57 and 58, which is labelled as Section B in this document. The heading for Section B, "Protection against political violence" seems to belong between paragraphs 39 and 40. Since this document is rather lengthy, this HTML version has been broken into four sections. If you would prefer to view or download the entire document as a single file, you may access a plain text version at http://www.mekong.net/cambodia/texts/un_th.txt

[Part 1 of 4]

 

Economic and Social Council
E/CN.4/1998/95
20 February 1998

 

COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS
Fifty-fourth
Item 17 of the provisional agenda

Situation of human rights in Cambodia
Report of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for human Rights in Cambodia, Mr. Thomas Hammarberg, submitted in accordance with Commission resolution 1997/49

Report of the Secretary-General

I. SIXTH AND SEVENTH MISSIONS OF THE SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE OF THE SECRETARY-GENERAL FOR HUMAN RIGHTS IN CAMBODIA
    A. Sixth mission (30 November-6 December 1997)
    B. Seventh mission (18-30 January 1998)
II. ISSUES OF SPECIAL CONCERN
    A. Preparations for elections and freedom of expression
    B. Protection against political violence
    C. Problem of impunity
    D. Rule of law, independence of the judiciary and administration of justice
    E. Protection against torture
    F. Prison conditions
    G. Labour rights
    H. Women's rights
    I. Rights of the child
    J. Trafficking in human beings
    K. Ethnic minorities
III. IMPLEMENTATION OF NEW AND PREVIOUS RECOMMENDATIONS
IV. CONCLUDING REMARKS

Introduction

1. The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for human rights in Cambodia was appointed pursuant to the Commission on Human Rights resolution 1993/6 of 19 February 1993 to undertake the following tasks

(a) To maintain contact with the Government and people of Cambodia;

(b) To guide and coordinate the United Nations human rights presence in Cambodia;

(c) To assist the Government in the promotion and protection of human rights.

2. In 1996 the Secretary-General appointed Thomas Hammarberg from Sweden as his Special Representative for human rights in Cambodia. Since he assumed the functions of Special Representative in May 1996, Mr.Hammarberg has undertaken seven official missions to Cambodia and reported to the Commission on Human Rights (E/CN.4/1997/85) and the General Assembly.

3. The Commission on Human Rights, in resolution 1997/49 of 11 April 1997, took note with appreciation of the Special Representative's report on the situation of human rights in Cambodia, in particular his concerns about the independence of the judiciary, the problem of impunity, the il treatment of prisoners, labour rights, child prostitution and trafficking, freedom of expression and the promotion of an effective functioning multi-party democracy.

4. The Commission expressed serious concern about the problem of impunity and encouraged the Government to repeal article 51 of the 1994 Law on Civil Servants. The Commission called upon the Government to investigate cases of violence and intimidation directed at political parties and their supporters, as well as against media personnel and offices, and to bring to justice those responsible.

5. The Commission strongly condemned the violence in Phnom Penh on March 1997 against a peaceful and lawful opposition rally, and called upon the Government of Cambodia to take immediate measures to uphold the rule of law in order to prevent the recurrence of such an outrage and to bring the perpetrators to justice.

6. The Commission requested the Secretary-General, through his Special Representative for human rights in Cambodia, in collaboration with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, to examine any request by Cambodia for assistance in responding to past serious violations of Cambodian and international law. The Secretary-General was also requested to report to the Commission at its fifty fourth session on the recommendations made by the Special Representative on matters within his mandate.

7. The present report is submitted pursuant to that request and is based on the sixth and seventh missions of the Special Representative in December 1997 and January 1998. The report was finalized in early February 1998.

8. Since the meeting of the Commission on Human Rights in April 1997, the General Assembly adopted resolution 52/135 on the situation of human rights in Cambodia in which it requested the Secretary-General, through his Special Representative, to assist the Government of Cambodia in ensuring the protection of the human rights of all people in Cambodia. The Assembly took note with appreciation the report of the Special Representative (E/CN.4/1997/85), in particular his concerns about the problem of impunity, the independence of the judiciary and the establishment of the rule of law, the use of torture, the administration of prisons and the ill-treatment of prisoners, and child prostitution and trafficking.

9. The Assembly expressed grave concern about the serious violations of human rights during the armed violence of early July 1997 and its aftermath and urged the Government of Cambodia as a high priority to investigate thoroughly and impartially and to bring to justice those responsible for such serious crimes. The Assembly also urged the Government to take action to identify and bring to justice the perpetrators of the 30 March 1997 violence against a peaceful and lawful opposition rally.

10. The Assembly strongly urged the Government to promote and uphold the effective functioning of multi-party democracy, including the right to form political parties, stand for election, take part freely in a representative Government, freedom of expression, as well as the right to information. The Assembly expressed support for the role of the United Nations offices in monitoring the return of political leaders currently outside the country and their unfettered resumption of political activity.

11. The Assembly endorsed the comments of the Special Representative that the most serious human rights violations in Cambodia in recent history had been committed by the Khmer Rouge and noted with concern that no Khmer Rouge leader had been brought to account for his crimes. The Assembly requested the Secretary-General to examine the request by the Cambodian authorities for assistance in responding to past serious violations of Cambodian and international law, including the possibility of the appointment, by the Secretary-General, of a group of experts to evaluate the existing evidence and propose further measures, as a means of bringing about national reconciliation, strengthening democracy and addressing the issue of individual accountability.

I. SIXTH AND SEVENTH MISSIONS OF THE SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE OF THE SECRETARY-GENERAL FOR HUMAN RIGHTS IN CAMBODIA

A. Sixth mission, 30 November-6 December 1997

12. The principal objective of the sixth mission was to inform the Government of the General Assembly discussions and resolution on the human rights situation in Cambodia and to assess progress made in the investigations of the 30 March 1997 grenade attack against a peaceful demonstration in Phnom Penh and the extrajudicial executions which occurred during and after the violent events in July 1997.

13. The Special Representative met with a wide range of people, including the co-Minister of Interior, H.E. Mr. Sar Kheng, the Director of National Police, Mr. Hok Lundi, the President of the National Assembly and Chairman of the Cambodian Peoples Party (CPP), Mr. Chea Sim, the advanced fact-finding team of exiled members of Parliament and several other MPs already in Phnom Penh, several Ambassadors of Western and Association of South East Asian Nation Countries, non-governmental organizations and experts working on the preparation of the elections, and NGOs working on the rights of children and women. The Special Representative held discussions with the Representative of the Secretary-General in Cambodia, Mr. Lakhan Mehrotra, the United Nations Resident Coordinator, Mr. Paul Matthews, and the staff of the Cambodia office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, including a meeting with its provincial offices. The Special Representative also met with the United States Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labour, Mr. John Shattuck, who was on a three-day mission in Cambodia. The Special Representative also briefed a visiting delegation from the German Bundestag.

14. At his meetings, the Special Representative explained the recently adopted General Assembly resolution and its historical reference to the atrocities committed under the Khmer Rouge regime and the commitment of the international community to assist Cambodia to address the problem of impunity. The Special Representative indicated that he would be recommending to the Secretary-General three prominent international jurists to form a team of experts. This team of experts would undertake the first important step in the process by assessing the legal strength of the evidence existing in Cambodia and making recommendations to the Secretary-General for further action. During his mission, the Special Representative twice visited the Documentation Centre of Cambodia, where he was given an overview of the existing documents from the Khmer Rouge period and held discussions with the Director of the Centre.

15. With regard to the 30 March grenade attack, the Special Representative met with the chairman of the investigation commission, Gen. Hok Lundi, and expressed regret that eight months after the grenade attack, little progress had been made in the investigation. The Special Representative was informed that the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) would be invited back to Cambodia to cooperate with the Government on further investigations. The Special Representative also took note of promises from the Director of National Police that action would be taken on the cases of torture in Battambang province which had been transmitted to the Government in June 1997 and the incident of armed interference by the police in the court in Banteay Meanchey province.

16. The Special Representative regretted to learn that the investigation into the 41 cases of extrajudicial killings documented in a memorandum submitted to the Cambodian Government in August 1997 had not even started. The Special Representative was unable to obtain a meeting with the Minister of Justice to discuss this problem. The Special Representative recalled the firm commitment expressed by Second Prime Minister Hun Sen during their meeting in September 1997 that thorough investigations would be carried out and that no one would enjoy impunity. The Special Representative stated that the Cambodian people and the international community deserved an explanation why it was impossible, for example, to find those responsible for the summary execution of Ho Sok, Secretary of State of the Ministry of Interior, hours after his arrest on 7 July 1997 while he was on the premises of the Ministry.

17. The Special Representative requested the Government to provide a progress report by the end of the year on the investigations into the 30 March grenade attack and the 41 cases of extrajudicial killings.

18. The Special Representative linked the problem of impunity with the organization of free, fair and credible elections. He expressed the view that the lack of action and progress in the investigations of politically motivated killings would be a bad omen for free and fair elections. With regard to equal access to the media and a free atmosphere for political activities, the Special Representative observed that the electronic media especially continued to be dominated by the CPP and that there was little visible indication, such as party signboards, of the existence of political parties in the provinces other than the CPP. As to the legislative framework for the elections, the Special Representative learned about the progress being made by the National Assembly. The Special Representative met with the advance team of returning parliamentarians and discussed with them the upcoming elections, including matters such as the legislative framework, access to the media, and the problem of impunity.

19. The Special Representative was briefed by NGOs working in the area of children's rights on the recent police efforts in cracking down on prostitution in Phnom Penh and on some of their concerns about the effectiveness of the approach. The Special Representative met with representatives of women's organizations and discussed the situation of the human rights of women. The right to education, the right to health, particularly reproductive health, violence against women, and women's participation in political life were identified as areas of priority concern. The Special Representative indicated that he would continue to follow and report on the situation of women's rights.

20. The Special Representative visited the PJ (police judiciaire) prison in Phnom Penh and talked with prisoners, including Srun Vong Vannak, the former security chief of the Khmer Nation Party. Mr. Vannak was accused of involvement in the murder of the brother-in-law of the Second Prime Minister and was sentenced to 13 years imprisonment in September 1997 in a trial which did not meet the requirements for fairness.

21. The Special Representative took note of some positive developments: the approval and submission of three reports to human rights treaty bodies, the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) and the Human Rights Committee, the convening of the first meeting of the Supreme Council of Magistracy in December 1997, and the progress made in the electoral process.

B. Seventh mission, 18-30 January 1998

22. The main purpose of the seventh mission, one month after the previous one, was to find out if there had been progress on the investigations of politically motivated crimes, including the 30 March attack and the 41 cases of extrajudicial executions. The mission was also to coincide with the three day visit to Cambodia of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

23. In accordance with his mandate to maintain contact with the Government and people of Cambodia, the Special Representative met with a wide range of people, including senior government officials, members of Parliament, leaders of political parties, including some in exile in Bangkok, representatives of civil society and the media. The Special Representative discussed a broad range of human rights issues with H.E. Mr. Chea Sim, the acting head of State, H.E. Mr. Ung Huot, H.E. Mr. Chem Snguon and H.E. Mr. You Hokry, representing the Royal Government, H.E. Mr. Kieu Khanarith, the Secretary of State for Information, Mr. Chea Sophara, Deputy Mayor of Phnom Penh, Koh Kong provincial officials, as well as human rights NGOs, trade union groups and student groups.

24. The Special Representative held discussions with the Representative of the Secretary-General, the United Nations Resident Coordinator, and the heads of United Nations agencies and programmes operating in Cambodia. The Special Representative briefed the diplomatic corps in Cambodia and the European ambassadors in Bangkok.

25. Issues discussed at the Special Representatives meetings focused on the problem of impunity, the organization of the elections, the exploitation of prostitution of women and children, the problem of trafficking in persons, and labour rights.

26. The Special Representative expressed serious concern about the grave consequences of the delay in the investigations of the cases of extrajudicial executions and the 30 March 1997 grenade attack. In response to the Second Prime Minister's criticism of his memorandum of 21 August 1997 concerning evidence of summary executions, torture and missing persons, the Special Representative nevertheless concluded that the figure of 41 executions was still valid; three persons listed as reportedly missing had been traced. The Special Representative emphasized the responsibility of the Government to conduct thorough investigations and bring those responsible to justice. He welcomed the Government's acceptance of an international expert to provide advisory assistance to its investigation and prosecution process.

27. The Special Representative welcomed the Government's continuous commitment to address the gross human rights violations committed during the Khmer Rouge regime from 1975 to 1979. The Government welcomed the proposal that a team of experts should come to examine the existing evidence from a legal perspective as a first step in the process. The composition of a high level group of experts is under consideration by the Special Representative, who will be making recommendations to the Secretary-General.

28. The Special Representative discussed the upcoming elections rescheduled for 26 July 1998, with government representatives, NGO election coalitions, members of Parliament and political parties, electoral experts and representatives of donors. The Special Representative stated that much remained to be done to create an atmosphere conducive to free, fair and credible elections, including investigations and prosecutions of political killings and ensuring fair access to the media. The Special Representative welcomed the adoption of the relevant laws and the establishment of the National Electoral Committee (NEC, equivalent to an electoral commission) by the National Assembly. He stressed the urgency of establishing the Constitutional Council and urged that every effort be made to enable the NEC to function independently and impartially.

29. With regard to the exploitation of the prostitution of women and children, the Special Representative met with the Deputy Mayor of Phnom Penh and also talked with a number of NGOs working for the protection of children and women's rights. The Special Representative noted the recent effort of the Government in cracking down on brothels in major cities and its increasing cooperation with NGOs working on combatting the exploitation of prostitution and trafficking of women and children. The Special Representative expressed the need for a comprehensive and long-term strategy so that the crack down efforts did not result in driving the problem underground. The Special Representative learned that large-scale prostitution still existed in covert forms such as dancing and karaoke clubs, where prostitutes were rendered even more vulnerable without access to NGOs and health workers. The Special Representative was alarmed by the increasingly high rate of HIV/AIDS infection among prostitutes and noted the important role of education in this regard. He discussed with United Nations agencies and other international organizations about joining their efforts to combat the exploitation of the prostitution of and trafficking in women and children.

30. The Special Representative travelled to the Province of Koh Kong, where he met with the Provincial Police Commissioner, the Deputy Military Commander and the Governor. He raised the issue of the illegal detention of two members of the National United Front for an Independent, Neutral, Peaceful and Cooperative Cambodia (FUNCINPEC) at the provincial military base and the trafficking in persons to Thailand for labour exploitation carried out by an organized network. The Special Representative stressed that the military had no authority to carry out arrest and detention; this rested solely with the police on the basis of instructions from the judicial authorities. The Special Representative underlined the importance of human rights training for the military and the police. The Governor assured the Special Representative of his continued cooperation with human rights organizations. The two persons detained by the military were immediately released.

31. The Special Representative was briefed by workers' representatives from several foreign-owned garment factories about the worsened working conditions in those factories since July 1997. Workers, especially labour activists, were subject to constant threats of dismissal and often humiliation and insults from the security at the factories. In some factories there was a permanent presence of police and military who were hired by the management. Workers were forced to work excessive overtime, including holidays, often without extra pay. Internal rules used by the management to justify the dismissal and punishment of workers were not made known to the workers. The Special Representative emphasized the importance of the internationally recognized rights to organize trade unions, to make complaints, and to negotiate. The Special Representative intends to bring the present report to the attention of the International Labour Organization (ILO).

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Copyright 1998
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
Geneva, Switzerland

 

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