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Cambodia’s Rule of Law & Human Rights

Cambodia has a civil law system. The Prime Minister, Members of the National Assembly and Senators have the power to initiate laws, which must pass through both houses of parliament before promulgation by the King. The court system comprises of first instance courts at the provincial and municipal levels, the Appeal Court and the Supreme Court. There is a separate military court system. The courts have no power of judicial review. A Constitutional Council comprised of nine appointees has the power to interpret the Constitution and laws. The Supreme Council of the Magistracy oversees the functioning of the courts. 

Various other national institutions have been established for the promotion and protection of human rights and rule of law, including the Cambodian National Council for Women (CNCW), the Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU), and the National Human Rights Committees of the National Assembly, the Senate, and the Government. Cambodia has expressed its commitment to establish an independent human rights institution in accordance with the Principles relating to the Status of National Institutions (The Paris Principles).

The 1993 Constitution includes a comprehensive bill of rights and Article 31 states that, “The Kingdom of Cambodia shall recognize and respect human rights as stipulated in the United Nations Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human rights, the covenants and conventions related to human rights, women’s and children’s rights.”  In 2007, the Constitutional Council instructed the courts to consider “international conventions that Cambodia has recognized” as domestic law.

Cambodia is a State Party to the Rome Statute and the majority of core UN human rights treaties, which it has ratified without reservation:

  • International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD),
  • International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR),
  • International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR),
  • Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and its Optional Protocol,
  • Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) and its Optional Protocol,
  • Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and its two Optional Protocols,
  • Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

Cambodia is a signatory to the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (ICRMW), the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR OP-1), and the Optional Protocol to the CRPD.

Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia was appointed by the Commission on Human Rights in resolution 1993/6 in accordance with article 17 of the 1991 Paris Peace Agreement. The Special Rapporteur’s mandate is to follow and report on the human rights situation in Cambodia.

However, despite constitutional guarantees of human rights, various human rights violations were reported and highlighted during the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) session on 8 December 2009 including:

  • forced evictions to acquire land for government and private development projects, land disputes and land grabbing;
  • restrictions on freedom of expression, assembly and association;
  • cases of intimidation and violence against trade unionists, journalists, non-government workers and community leaders working to expose corruption and uphold human rights, and a failure to investigate and prosecute such cases;
  • failure to meet international refugee protection obligations.

Cambodia accepted all UN Human Rights Council recommendations made during the 2009 UPR review. The mid-term review reportavailable at www.upr-info.org assesses that Cambodia has fully implemented four of the 138 UPR recommendations, and partially implemented 10.

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