UN rights office renews concern after Cambodian Senate adopts law with ‘chilling effect’ on civil society

UN rights office renews concern after Cambodian Senate adopts law with ‘chilling effect’ on civil society

Op-Ed: UN News Centre

24 July 2015 – A draft law adopted today by Cambodia’s legislative wing

Ravina Shamsadani, Spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. Photo: UN Multimedia
Ravina Shamsadani, Spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. Photo: UN Multimedia

“threatens the very existence of a free and independent civil society” and the crucial work that non-governmental organizations (NGOs) carry out in the country, the United Nations human rights office has warned.

“The Cambodian Senate has adopted a draft law on associations and non-governmental organizations which falls significantly short of international human rights laws and norms governing the right to freedom of association,” explained Ravina Shamdasani, spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) during a press briefing in Geneva.

Already adopted by the National Assembly on 13 July, the law would now have to be examined by the Constitutional Council, she added.

“OHCHR urges the Council to reject the bill, which carried provisions that breached the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which Cambodia had ratified and which was recognized in the country’s Constitution.”

Laws like this, Ms. Shamdasani said, allow the authorities to de-register associations that they considered not to be “politically neutral”. This one would give the Government the right to deny registration on ill-defined bases, including if the purpose and goal of the association is perceived to “endanger the security, stability and public order or jeopardize national security, national unity, culture, traditions, and customs of Cambodian national society.”

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