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5 Mar 2021

Human Rights Watch

Cambodia: Human Rights Watch call on govt. to scrap abusive law on COVID-19 prevention measures; the law enables for restrictions on human rights & civic freedoms

"Cambodia: Scrap Abusive Covid-19 Prevention Bill", 5 March 2021

The Cambodian government should withdraw a draconian draft law that would allow for 20-year prison sentences and other disproportionate penalties for violations of Covid-19 related measures, Human Rights Watch said ... The bill contains overly broad and vague provisions that the authorities could easily abuse, and fails to provide any independent oversight or procedural safeguards.

The draft Law on Measures to Prevent the Spread of Covid-19 and other Serious, Dangerous and Contagious Diseases aims to impose criminal punishments, including fines and prison sentences, on people who violate health, administrative, or other measures related to preventing the spread of Covid-19. The government has asked the National Assembly to treat the bill as “urgent,” minimizing expert review and public input.

“The Cambodian government has already passed an abusive state of emergency law and now proposes a vague and overly broad Covid-19 law that would further erode the rights of activists and dissidents,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Imposing ridiculously harsh penalties for Covid-19 infractions goes against both public health and human rights principles.”

… The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Cambodia is a state party, allows countries to adopt exceptional and temporary restrictions on certain rights that would not otherwise be permitted but the measures must be those “strictly required by the exigencies of the situation.” Such measures restricting human rights should be provided for by law, not discriminate, and be necessary and proportionate to meet the public health crisis…