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UN rights expert urges Cambodia to review proposed NGO law

The UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Cambodia Surya Subedi [official profile] on Wednesday urged the Cambodian government to review a proposed law that would hinder non-governmental organization (NGO) efforts in the country. The proposed Law on Associations and Non-Governmental Organisations (LANGO) would force potential NGOs to meet strict eligibility requirements and to complete a government registration. When presenting his annual report [text, PDF] on the situation of human rights in Cambodia to the UN Human Rights Council [official website], Subedi said that, while Cambodia has the sovereign right to pass regulatory laws, LANGO's unnecessary registration requirements would prevent NGOs from fully contributing to long-term progress in the country. Last month, 130 NGOs working in Cambodia publicly opposed the proposed law [statement, PDF], saying that the law would hurt the vital role that civil society organizations play in the continued development of the country. The Cambodian Interior Ministry [official website] has agreed to review [VOA report] at least one draft of the law before sending it to the Council of Ministers [official website] for approval.

Subedi also reported that human rights in Cambodia are improving. As part of the mission to promote human rights, the UN-backed Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) [official website] continues to try suspects accused of genocide and related crimes committed under the Khmer Rouge regime [BBC backgrounder] during its reign in Cambodia from 1975-1979. Last week, the ECCC ordered the trials of four alleged Khmer Rouge leaders be split into a series of smaller trials [JURIST report] to allow the tribunal to deliberate more quickly in the case. A week earlier, the ECCC concluded three days of hearings [JURIST report] aimed at determining whether two of the four Khmer Rouge leaders were fit enough to stand trial on accusations of genocide and other war crimes. The four leaders include Nuon Chea, who was Pol Pot's second-in-command and the group's chief ideologist, former head of state Khieu Samphan, ex-foreign minister Ieng Sary, and his wife, Ieng Thirith [case profiles, PDFs], who served as minister for social affairs. All four pleaded not guilty to charges including crimes against humanity, war crimes, genocide, religious persecution, homicide and torture.

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