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UN Envoy Reports 'No Incentive' for Rights

Cambodia's government has no reason to reform "widespread violations of human rights," as the rule of law and rights of citizens are neglected, the UN special envoy for human rights has reported.

Yash Ghai, the UN secretary-general's rights envoy for Cambodia, is expected to address the 7th session of the UN Human Rights Council Wednesday, and to include findings of a report now available online.

"The government has no incentives for reform, as the international community continues to make large financial contributions regardless of widespread violations of human rights," Ghai wrote in his report to the Rights Council.

Repeated attempts to reach government spokesmen at the ministries of Information and Foreign Affairs were unsuccessful Tuesday, but officials have steadily denounced Ghai's rights reports. The government refused to meet with Ghai on a December visit, and Prime Minister Hun Sen has called for his ouster.

Ahead of Ghai's expected address, the Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a restriction on visas issued to Ghai through foreign embassies. In a letter obtained by VOA Khmer, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs ordered that visas for Ghai must be approved directly through the ministry.

Ghai's report is critical of the erosion of the rule of law and the constitution, and cautions against government involvement in land disputes, among other areas of concern.

"Laws, institutions [and] procedures critical to the rule of law are very little respected in Cambodia - especially by the State," Ghai reported.

The lack of respect for such laws meant many of the provisions in the constitution were negated, he wrote.

"Numerous reports by the Special Representatives and national and international organizations have highlighted serious consequences of this," he wrote. "For the most part, the Government has made no serious attempt to deny, much less refute, these findings or to take serious action to address these issues."

Ghai visited Cambodia in December, meeting with non-government agencies and residents who had been removed from their land. On that visit, he said land disputes were a source of destabilization for Cambodia.

Ghai recommended in his Rights Council report that the government "do all it can to stop forced evictions" and "never be complicit in unlawful evictions."

Residents should never be made homeless as a result of development, he wrote, and evictions should only be made in "exceptional circumstances, and solely for the purpose of promoting the general welfare in a democratic society."

Ghai shunned the use of force and imprisonment in cases related to land disputes, especially for those "protecting their rights to land and housing," and he called for the release of anyone who is currently jailed under such conditions.

"A moratorium on forced evictions should be declared, to allow the determination of the legality of land claims to be made in an objective and fair manner."

Ghai recommended the international community set up or help set up an "independent expert commission" to review the legal and judicial system and report annually to the donor community.

Ghai cited a report by the rights group Licadho, claiming the "justice system has failed."

"Despite the Untac intervention and 15 years of aid to legal and judicial reform, in 2007," the report, "The Charade of Justice," says, "the primary functions of the courts continue to be to prosecute political opponents and other critics of the government; to perpetuate impunity for State actors and their associates; [and] to promote the economic interests of the rich and powerful.”

For Yash Ghai's full Human Rights Council report, click here.