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Cambodia: UN experts express concerns over tightening restrictions on civil society & systematic detention & criminalisation of human rights defenders; govt. deny

"Rapporteur’s rights claims refuted", 17 November 2020

The Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of Cambodia to the UN Office in Geneva has rejected claims by a UN special rapporteur on human rights that the government had used hard-handed measures against human rights defenders in the country.

In a … press release, Mary Lawlor – a special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders – alleged that the government had placed restrictions on civil society in Cambodia. She called for an immediate end to the “systemic detention and criminalisation” of human rights defenders as well as the excessive use of force against them.

“I am alarmed by credible reports that at least 21 human rights defenders have been subjected to threats, arbitrary arrests and detentions in the past three months.

“I have reviewed publicly available footage where excessive force has been used by the security forces to prohibit human rights defenders, many of them women, from exercising their rights to peaceful assembly. Promotion and protection of human rights through peaceful means is not a crime,” she added…

“Human rights defenders should never be criminalised for their courageous efforts to protect the rights of others,” said Lawlor.

In response, the Cambodian mission to the UN said Lawlor’s criticisms failed to take into consideration the actions taken by activists in the context of the Cambodian Constitution and laws. It said Lawlor also did not follow internationally recognised protocol when levying her accusations…

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