UN rights expert: Cambodia government using judiciary for political purposes News
UN rights expert: Cambodia government using judiciary for political purposes

[JURIST] An independent UN human rights expert said Tuesday that Cambodia’s government is manipulating the judiciary to silence opposition [press release]. The Special Rapporteur in Cambodia [official website], Surya Subedi, emphasized recent arrests [Human Rights Watch report] followed by mass convictions for a July 15 ant-igovernment demonstration [TIME report] highlight a recurring theme of judiciary manipulation by Prime Minister Hun Sen’s [official website] administration. Members of opposition political parties are being arrested and convicted without sufficient cause. Including the recent arrest of Meach Sovannara, head of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) [party website] Information Department, 17 CNRP supporters have been arrested in connection to the protest, while no member of the Cambodian security force involved has been charged. Subedi, whose six-year mandate as Special Rapporteur in Cambodia will end in March, is calling for greater judicial autonomy so the public may have confidence in Cambodia’s political institutions.

Cambodia has come under recent scrutiny for its judicial process and human rights situation, especially following the controversial 2013 parliamentary elections [TIME backgrounder]. In October the Cambodian government released [JURIST report] the findings of a survey showing at least half of all Cambodians under age 18 were exposed to violence. In September Subedi commented [JURIST report] on Cambodia’s recent efforts in human rights protection, noting that while there have been improvements, there are still substantial problems in the judicial system. In March the two main political parties, the Cambodian People’s Party and the CNRP, 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 demonstratins. January was a particularly volatile month, prompting multiple statements from UN bodies calling [JURIST reports] for reconciliation and an end to political violence.