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UN rights expert concerned over Cambodia legislative session

[JURIST] The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia [official websites], Surya Subedi, issued a statement [text] on Monday expressing concern that the Cambodian National Assembly [official website] went forward with its second session without the representative MPs of the opposition taking up their seats. Subedi urged the legislature to uphold what was referred to as the key principles of any law-making process, "transparency, accountability, and participation." According to Subedi, participation is currently the most pressing problem. As a result of the contested [JURIST report] 2013 parliamentary elections several opposition MPs have boycotted their seats in the legislature, prompting the concern by Subedi over the possibility of the legislature passing several draft laws with representation from only a single party. Currently in consideration are several draft laws that reportedly have a great potential impact on the situation of human rights in Cambodia [BBC backgrounder], including three laws addressing fundamentals of the judicial process. Despite that fact that he himself has urged their swift enactment, Subedi stated that expediency must not come at the expense of the integrity of the political process, referring to the three "key principles" of the legislative process. Subedi also stated that meaningful reform could only be achieved through participation of all members of the political spectrum, and urged the government to release all proposed draft laws to the public for comment and expert review.

Cambodia has a precarious relationship both with its human rights situation and its political process, especially in the aftermath of of the disputed 2013 parliamentary elections. Some progress was recently made in reconciling political divisions. In March the two main political parties, the Cambodian People's Party and the Cambodian National Rescue Party, reached [JURIST report] a five-point electoral reform agreement that garnered the support of Subedi. On February 27 the government lifted [JURIST report] its temporary ban on public protests which had barred demonstrations by opposition groups protesting the previous year's allegedly fraudulent elections. The ban had been put in place the previous month after several textile workers engaged in a protest had been shot by police. Also in February the government announced [JURIST report] its refusal to release 21 persons arrested in connection with political demonstrations. January was a particularly volatile month, prompting multiple statements from UN bodies calling [JURIST reports] for reconciliation and an end to political violence.

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