Human Rights: Framework for a Comprehensive Political Settlement of the Cambodia Conflict
Part III. Human Rights
1. All persons in Cambodia and all Cambodian refugees and displaced persons shall enjoy the rights and freedoms embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other relevant international human rights instruments.
2. To this end,
1. Cambodia undertakes:
* to ensure respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms in Cambodia;
* to support the right of all Cambodian citizens to undertake activities which would promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms;
* to take effective measures to ensure that the policies and practices of the past shall never be allowed to return;
* to adhere to relevant international human rights instruments;
2. the other Signatories to this Agreement undertake to promote and encourage respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms in Cambodia as embodied in the relevant international instruments and the relevant resolutions of the United Nations General Assembly, in order, in particular, to prevent the recurrence of human rights abuses.
UNTAC shall be responsible during the transitional period for fostering an environment in which respect for human rights shall be ensured, based on the provisions of annex 1, section E.
After the end of the transitional period, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights should continue to monitor closely the human rights situation in Cambodia, including, if necessary, by the appointment of a Special Rapporteur who would report his findings annually to the Commission and to the General Assembly.
Section E. Human Rights
In accordance with Article 16, UNTAC will make provisions for:
a) The development and implementation of a programme of human rights education to promote respect for and understanding of human rights;
b) General human rights oversight during the transitional period;
c) The investigation of human rights complaints, and, where appropriate, corrective action.
Cambodia's tragic recent history requires special measures to assure protection of human rights. Therefore, the constitution will contain a declaration of fundamental rights, including the rights to life, personal liberty, security, freedom of movement, freedom of religion, assembly and association including political parties and trade unions, due process and equality before the law, protection from arbitrary deprivation of property or deprivation of private property without just compensation, and freedom from racial, ethnic, religious or sexual discrimination. It will prohibit the retroactive application of criminal law. The declaration will be consistent with the provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other relevant international instruments. Aggrieved individuals will be entitled to have the courts adjudicate and enforce these rights.
Principles for a New Constitution for Cambodia
3. Agreement Concerning the Sovereignty, Independence, Territorial Integrity and Inviolability, Neutrality and National Unity of Cambodia
1. All persons in Cambodia shall enjoy the rights and freedoms embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other relevant international human rights instruments.
2. To this end,
1. Cambodia undertakes:
* to ensure respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms in Cambodia;
* to support the right of all Cambodian citizens to undertake activities that would promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms;
* to take effective measures to ensure that the policies and practices of the past shall never be allowed to return:
* to adhere to relevant international human rights instruments;
2. The other parties to this Agreement undertake to promote and encourage respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms in Cambodia as embodied in the relevant international instruments in order, in particular, to prevent the recurrence of human rights abuses.
3. The United Nations Commission on Human Rights should continue to monitor closely the human rights situation in Cambodia, including, if necessary, by the appointment of a Special Rapporteur who would report his findings annually to the Commission and to the General Assembly.
With the signing of the Paris Agreement in October 1991, restrictions on freedom of association were lifted and it became possible to establish human rights monitoring organizations.1 Other human rights components were not implemented in 1991 due to the fact that the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) was yet to be established in Cambodia. UNTAC would have the responsibility of fostering an environment in which respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms were ensured and where free and fair elections might take place during the transitional period.2
On November 21, 1991, a tripartite memorandum of understanding was reached between the Thai government, the Supreme National Council (SNC), and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). This memorandum related to the repatriation of Cambodian refugees and displaced persons from Thailand. Thailand’s cooperation was essential in the safe and orderly return of all Cambodian refugees and displaced persons to their homeland.3 The return of refugees and displaced persons was perceived as an essential element of the peace process. It was essential that these Cambodians be given the opportunity to take part in the Constituent Assembly election and in the building of the Cambodian nation.
- 1. “Cambodia,” Human Rights Watch World Report 1992, accessed July 26, 2010, http://www.hrw.org/reports/1992/WR92/ASW-04.htm#P182_63937.
- 2. “Cambodia - UNTAC Background,” United Nations, accessed July 25, 2010, http://www.un.org/en/peacekeeping/missions/past/untacbackgr2.html.
- 3. “Thai-Cambodian Joint Communique Issued,” BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, November 25, 1991.
On April 20, 1992, the Khmer Rouge, together with the leaders of Cambodia's three other mutually hostile factions, signed two international covenants that committed them to far-reaching respect for human rights.4 The Supreme National Council then ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. On September 10, the SNC agreed to accede to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women; the Convention on the Rights of the Child; and the Convention and Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees.
“The Paris Agreements gave UNTAC the responsibility during the transitional period for fostering an environment in which respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms were ensured and where free and fair elections might take place” (United Nations).5
“The UNTAC human rights component was active in three broad areas. First, it encouraged SNC to adhere to relevant international human rights instruments and undertook a review of the existing judicial and penal systems in the light of international provisions. Secondly, it conducted an extensive human rights information and education campaign in close cooperation with the Information/Education Division of UNTAC. Thirdly, it investigated human rights-related complaints and took corrective measures where necessary. Human rights officers were progressively deployed in all 21 provinces in Cambodia, including in the zones controlled by FUNCINPEC and KPNLF. However, the component had no access to the zones controlled by PDK” (United Nations).6
“UNTAC developed a human rights education programme with particular reference to teacher training, dissemination of relevant international instruments, education of health professionals, training of public and political officials and support for local human rights organizations. Educational materials, posters, leaflets, stickers and other printed materials were disseminated throughout the country. Human rights training was introduced into the Cambodian education system, and human rights studies were incorporated in the curriculum of Phnom Penh University's Law School and Medical Faculty. Collaboration with local human rights organizations was an important aspect of UNTAC's work. UNTAC provided them with materials, training and expertise as well as small grants for basic office expenses. It organized an International Symposium on Human Rights in Cambodia from 30 November to 2 December 1992, and conducted a special course for human rights advocates, including a training programme on United Nations human rights procedures and a special training programme dealing with human rights issues in the electoral process. One of the most important things that happened during this time period was the growth of civil society organizations like Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (Licado), Cambodia Human Rights and Development Association (Adhoc) and center for Human Rights. These civil society organizations, however, were largely funded by international actors” (United Nations).7
“As part of the effort to promote the development of an independent judiciary, a major programme of training for judges, defence lawyers and public defenders was initiated. Training sessions for officials of the existing administrative structures and professional or activist groups were undertaken in almost every province. Participants included representatives of political parties, members of human rights associations, teacher trainees, justice officials and police. UNTAC closely monitored conditions of detention in civil prisons throughout Cambodia and pressed local authorities to improve the situation to the extent possible within the means available to the prison administration. It investigated all cases of prisoners whose detention might be politically motivated” (United Nations).8
As the Khmer Rouge resumed the guerilla insurgency, the human rights situation became worse. Ethnic Vietnamese in Cambodia were frequently targeted by the Khmer. Regarding violence against ethnic Vietnamese in Cambodia, UNTAC and the person in charge of human rights in Cambodia said that the Cambodian government was responsible for the protection of Vietnamese residents and that the United National could only observe the situation and adopt a wait-and-see policy. UNTAC’s stance on this, however, was rejected by the Vietnamese government because the Paris Agreement clearly pointed out that the UN was responsible for acting as the guarantor of human rights during the transitional period.9
In May 1993, more than four million Cambodians went to the polls to vote in their first free election since the 1950s, even though the UN-administered elections were held amid much fear and uncertainty due to the outbreak of fighting around the country.10
Repatriated refugees and displaced persons were ensured voting rights in the post-conflict Constituent Assembly election. After the Constituent Assembly election, UNTAC initiated a vigorous debate in the General Assembly over the creation of a national human rights commission.11
“The U.N. Centre for Human Rights opened its first field office in Phnom Penh in late 1993, and the U.N. Secretary-General appointed a special representative for human rights in Cambodia, whose mandate was due to be reviewed in March 1995” (Human Rights Watch, 1995).12
- 9. “Vietnam and Cambodia; Hanoi Says UNTAC Responsible for Safety of Vietnamese; Cited Paris Agreement,” BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, March 29, 1993.
- 10. “Repression and intimidation, now a Cambodian election,” The Age (Melbourne, Australia), May 22, 1993.
- 11. “Cambodia Votes to Give Crown Back to Sihanouk; Prince's critics fear he will bypass constitutional curbs on his powers,” The Guardian (London), September 16, 1993.
- 12. “Cambodia,” Human Rights Watch World Report 1995, accessed July 2, 2010, http://www.hrw.org/reports/1995/WR95/ASIA-02.htm#P133_39951.
After the completion of the UNTAC mandate, the UN continuously monitored the human rights situation in Cambodia through its recently established UN Center for Human Rights. The UN Human Rights Center provided educational services and legal advice, and investigated military abuses and prison conditions. The U.N.'s Special Representative, Justice Michael Kirby, visited three times since the field office's establishment in late 1993, raising a wide range of human rights concerns with the Cambodian government and publishing comprehensive reports on the human rights situation.13
The human rights situation remained very poor. According to a UN Report, Cambodian military authorities in the northwest had been abducting people for ransom, executing them and then eating their livers in a gruesome ritual thought to imbue them with power. An investigation by the Ministry of Defense corroborated most details of the U.N. Centre's reports, but investigators from the Prime Ministers' office initially denied the findings. Cambodia's Co-Premiers Prince Norodom Ranariddh and Hun Sen then ordered a second investigation, but its findings, published on July 22, were inconclusive about the existence of the Cheu Kmau detention center. It did not deny the existence of the secret prison, but said that Khmer Rouge activity in the area made further inquiries too dangerous.14
- 13. “Cambodia,” Human Rights Watch World Report 1995, accessed July 2, 2010, http://www.hrw.org/reports/1995/WR95/ASIA-02.htm#P133_39951.
- 14. Ibid.
The Human Rights situation continued to deteriorate.
In May 1995, the Cambodian government said that constitutional guarantees to ensure human rights were in place, and asked the UN Human Rights Center to leave Cambodia. The international human rights organization, however, called the decision premature.15
On May 4, 1995, the Cambodian government agreed to a continued U.N. human rights presence in Cambodia but called for amendments to the mandate of the U.N. Centre for Human Rights (UNMCHR).16
In a meeting held on May 4, 1995, the first and second prime ministers of the Kingdom of Cambodia said that the Royal Government of Cambodia [RGC] would willingly accept the five-point proposal of the United Nations because it was very applicable. These five points were:
(a) regular consultations be held unofficially every three months between the RGC and the UN Human Rights Office in Cambodia; (b) a meeting be held every year, two months before the annual meeting of the UN Human Rights Office, between the RGC and the UN to enable the UN to understand Cambodia's difficulties; (c) consultations be held before any report is sent to Geneva; (d) the RGC should allow the UN Human Rights Office to arrange seminars on human rights for administrative personnel; and (e) if the RGC accepts the four aforementioned points, the UN Human Rights Office will invite the RGC to Geneva to gain experience on human rights activities to be utilized in Cambodia.17
- 15. “Cambodia Asks U.N. to Close Office Protecting Human Rights,” The New York Times, March 21, 1995.
- 16. “Cambodia agrees to extend U.N. human rights office mandate,” Deutsche Presse-Agentur, May 4, 1995.
- 17. “RELATIONS WITH UN; Cambodia accepts UN proposal on human rights,” BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, May 13, 1995.
According to the Human Rights Watch World Report of 1996, “political tensions rose between the two partners in the coalition government; political violence increased, as did restrictions on freedom of the press; and a pattern of impunity continued to favor those responsible for human rights abuses, including former Khmer Rouge officials” (Human Rights Watch, 1997). In the report it was noted that the “U.N. Commission on Human Rights passed a resolution expressing concern over continuing abuses, including violence and intimidation directed at political parties and the press” (Human Rights Watch, 1997).18 Nevertheless, the report suggested that the UN Human Rights Center in Phnom Penh was able to carry out its activities without threats from the government. During this period, UN and other human right workers were routinely harassed, including the kidnapping of the son of one member of the UNCHR staff.
- 18. “Cambodia,” Human Rights Watch World Report 1997, accessed July 25, 2010, http://www.hrw.org/reports/1997/WR97/ASIA-02.htm#P126_70556.
According to the Human Rights Watch World Report of 1998, “in February 1997,factional fighting erupted in Battambang province between FUNCINPEC and CPP forces, with human rights workers reporting as many as twenty soldiers killed during the armed clashes. On March 30 (1997), a grenade attack on a peaceful rally in front of the National Assembly led by KNP President Sam Rainsy left at least sixteen dead and more than one hundred wounded. The two prime ministers continued to build up their personal arsenals and private armies, with Hun Sen's security forces numbering at least 1,500 and Ranariddh's approaching 1,000. Tensions continued to escalate as the two factions competed to recruit defecting Khmer Rouge units, as well as to build new rival political alliances, which led to virtual paralysis of the fragile coalition. The beginning of the National Assembly's planned three-month session, slated originally for April 21, was postponed after divisions broke out within FUNCINPEC, with a renegade faction led by Minister of State Ung Phan and Siem Reap Governor Toan Chay announcing their intention to oust Ranariddh. During the ensuing political stalemate, the National Assembly failed to convene for nearly six months, holding up passage of crucial legislation regulating the upcoming elections, nongovernmental organization (NGO) activity, political parties, and access to broadcasting frequencies” (Human Rights Watch, 1998).
“When military authorities in late May seized a shipment of weapons and ammunition, addressed to Ranariddh and marked ’spare parts,’ the first prime minister said he ‘did not have any choice‘ but to procure weapons in order to protect himself from CPP forces. On June 17 (1997), fighting broke out in the streets of Phnom Penh for several hours between Ranariddh's personal security unit and troops under CPP loyalist National Police Chief Hok Lundy, in which several people were killed” (Human Rights Watch, 1998).19 Hun Sen gradually consolidated his power by neutralizing the opposition parties.
- 19. “Human Rights Watch World Report 1998 – Cambodia,” Human Rights Watch 1998, accessed July 25, 2010, http://www.hrw.org/legacy/worldreport/Asia-02.htm#P210_63166.
The human rights situation was worse in 1998. Amid the preparation for general elections, UN Officials came to Cambodia to assess the human rights situation. After visiting for four days, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, said that there were very serious issues that needed to be resolved. She suggested that the government had a responsibility to bring about an environment that would facilitate a free and fair election.20
According to the 1999 Human Rights Watch World Report, “A pattern of violence against opposition party workers continued late into the year. Prior to Ranariddh’s return on March 3, several high-ranking FUNCINPEC officials were assassinated in Phnom Penh, including Lt. Col. Moung Sameth on March 3, Gen. Thach Kim Sang on March 4, and Lt. Col. Chea Vutha on March 28. Local activists in the countryside were also targeted, as for example in the April 26 grenade attack against Son Sann Party members in Takeo, in which two people were killed”.21 The government crackdown continued after a grenade attack on Hun Sen’s residence occurred on September 7. A Human Rights Watch Report stated that, “the government banned sixty-eight opposition politicians from leaving the country and threatened that some would be arrested. While the travel ban was effectively lifted on September 24 for most opposition leaders, Son Sann Party candidate Kem Sokha, the former chairman of the National Assembly’s Human Rights Commission, continued to be barred from leaving the country. In late September he went into hiding after a court summons was issued in connection with his role in the September demonstrations” (Human Rights Watch, 1999).22
- 20. “U.N. official leaves Cambodia after assessing human rights problems,” Deutsche Presse-Agentur, January 25, 1998.
- 21. “Human Rights Watch World Report 1999 – Cambodia,” Human Rights Watch 1999, accessed July 25, 2010, http://www.hrw.org/legacy/worldreport99/asia/cambodia.html.
- 22. Ibid.
“Impunity for human rights abusers, however, continued largely unabated. By October, none of the surviving Khmer Rouge leadership had been brought to justice, and throughout the year many civilian and military authorities continued to commit crimes with impunity. Human rights monitoring continued to be a risky profession, with the unsolved killing of an activist member of the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC) and the arrest and trial of two workers from the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (known by its acronym LICADHO), on spurious charges of having incited a demonstration against toxic waste. The two were later acquitted. Torture by police of detainees, undue use of lethal force by police in apprehending suspects, complicity of military and police in trafficking of women and children for sexual exploitation, and excessive pretrial detention periods were endemic problems, as was confiscation of land by military personnel and local officials. The judiciary was far from independent, and numerous court decisions were influenced by corruption or political dictates” (Human Rights Watch, 2000).23
Despite these issues, there were some positive developments. Cambodia's main political parties agreed to delay the trial of captured Khmer Rouge military chief Ta Mok until he could be charged with genocide.24 After the Cambodian government rejected an earlier proposal to try Pol Pot’s former associates in a fully independent international tribunal, the UN developed detailed plans for a joint war crimes tribunal. This tribunal would be held in Cambodia and presided over by Cambodian and foreign judges. It was suggested that these judges try the former political and military leaders of the Khmer Rouge in a single trial.25
- 23. “Human Rights Watch World Report 2000 – Cambodia,” Human Rights Watch 2000, accessed July 27, 2010, http://www.hrw.org/wr2k/Asia-02.htm#TopOfPage.
- 24. “Cambodian parties agree on delay in Khmer Rouge leader trial,” Deutsche Presse-Agentur, August 2, 1999.
- 25. “U.N. Plans Joint War Crimes Tribunal for Khmer Rouge,” The New York Times, August 12, 1999.
“After more than two years of negotiations, Cambodia and the United Nations tentatively reached agreement in July to establish a national tribunal with international participation to bring former Khmer Rouge leaders to justice for genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes committed between April 1975 and January 1979. As of October, however, the government had yet to submit revised legislation establishing the tribunal to the National Assembly, casting doubt on the government's resolve. Although the high level of political strife that had plagued Cambodia in recent years receded, serious human rights violations continued, including political killings and torture, attacks on opposition leaders, human trafficking, substandard prison conditions, and violations associated with labor and land conflicts” (Human Rights Watch, 2001).26