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5 Apr 2021

Khuon Narim, CamboJA

Cambodia: UN human rights experts raise concerns of human rights and fundamental freedoms restrictions imposed by Law on COVID-19 Measures; govt. provide no response

"UN human rights expert shares concerns on COVID-19 law, receives no answer from government", 5 April 2021

The outgoing UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights has expressed concerns a sweeping law intended to halt the spread of Covid-19 could be used to restrict civil rights in Cambodia.

In a letter to the Cambodian government made public this past weekend, Special Rapporteur Rhona Smith cited concerns with provisions in the new law that provide the government with the power to “restrict or prohibit travel, meetings and gatherings,” and “restrict certain business operations or professional activities”…

“The imposition of public health and other measures during a health emergency should be aimed at the overall protection of public health, as opposed to simply limiting spread,” the letter noted. “A narrower aim risks ignoring the direct and indirect health impacts of restrictive measures, particularly as they relate to marginalised and vulnerable groups.”

… Lawmakers brought forward a draft of the law …, addressing COVID-19 but also infectious diseases more generally…, the day Cambodia officially recorded its first death from COVID-19, the bill had passed through the necessary legislative processes to become law.

… Justice Ministry spokesman Chin Malin said the issues raised by the UN experts are only theoretical, stating the COVID-19 law is necessary as an urgent measure to preserve the public welfare in light of a spreading viral outbreak…

“It isn’t restricted on rights individually, and for common interests,” he said…

Kang Savang, monitoring and advocacy coordinator at COMFREL … expressed similar concerns as the UN Special Rapporteur.

“[The government] created the law without widely consulting [the public], so there is [also] not much interest in serving the people when they implement,” he said…