Friday, 27 March 2009

Nepalese professor appointed as Human Rights envoy for Cambodia

The UN Human Rights Council has announced the appointment of Professor Surya Prasad Subedi as the next UN Special Rapporteur for human rights in Cambodia.
Dr Subedi is Professor of International and Human Rights Law at the University of Leeds in England. He is a Barrister in England and an Advocate in Nepal. Professor Subedi said of his appointment:
“I am delighted and honoured by the trust and confidence placed in me by such a high level UN body in recognition of my work in the field of international and human rights law.”
The Cambodian ambassador to the UN, Sun Suon, welcomed the appointment. He expressed both the willingness of his government to cooperate with Professor Subedi and also hoped that he would discharge his responsibilities as an independent human rights law expert in “a spirit of cooperation and good partnership”.

Whilst the Cambodian government may publicly state that they will cooperate with the Rapporteur and the permanent Office of the high Commissioner for Human Rights Commissioner (OHCHR) Phnom Penh the experience of previous envoys to Cambodia has typically been challenging. Indeed, the last envoy, Kenyan lawyer Yash Ghai, was publicly attacked by the Cambodian officials, including the Prime Minister. He resigned from his office in September 2008 leaving with strong criticisms of the commitment of the Cambodian authorities to human rights.

Human rights activists and observers within Cambodia will wait to see how Professor Subedi is treated once he takes up his position. There are ongoing concerns about the overall cooperation with the OHCHR which plays an important role in monitoring day-to-day human rights violations within the country; and a general view that the messages of cooperation and dialogue that come from the government are in fact not real.

Critics point to the fact that when the United States State Department’s 2008 annual rights report found that Cambodia’s human rights record “remained poor” the Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs attacked the report as ‘hypocritical and politically motivated’. The report raised concerns about a number of key areas including the abuse of detainees, land disputes and forced evictions, endemic corruption, the remaining problem of a weak judiciary and the denial of the right to a fair trial.

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