The UN’s top human rights envoy on Thursday called on political leaders to temper the reactions of their party activists as the results of the elections become known.
“It’s very important that the political leadership of this country make it very clear that they will take a strong stance against any attempt to take revenge,” Thomas Hammarberg, the UN secretary-general’s special representative for human rights in Cambodia, said at a press conference at the Goldiana Hotel.
While Hammarberg said the UN is investigating the human rights climate before, during and after the election, a report from the office will not be released until late September, he said.
“It’s not my role to make announcements [on the results of the election]….Still I do believe that human rights is relevant,” he said.
Hammarberg also called on foreign powers not to forget Cambodia: “The UN and the international community’s interest moves from conflict to conflict, from country to country. And this country is in danger now of being forgotten.”
The office has concluded there was strong evidence that at least five of the 25 killings reported to them during the campaign were politically motivated, he said.
Hammarberg asked the government to investigate these cases. He added that it was not too late to do the same for the approximately 100 extrajudicial killings documented after the July 1997 factional fighting and at least 17 deaths caused by the grenade attack in March 1997.
He said a review is also needed of how the Vietnamese issue was discussed in the campaign: “I have talked to some Vietnamese representatives and they…have voiced their worries about the way their presence in this country was discussed,” he said, pointing out that many ethnic Vietnamese in Cambodia were citizens with the same rights as anyone.
“Political leaders must show leadership in this area in order to instill an atmosphere of tolerance and respect,” he added.
Hammarberg said he called the press conference to suggest a human rights agenda for the next government, including the revamping of legislation for the justice system.
“The justice system is flawed [and] partially corrupt,” he said, citing article 51 of the criminal code, which says civil servants cannot be arrested without the permission of their ministers.
Hammarberg offered his office’s assistance to the future government in issues such as media access, domestic abuse, prison conditions and child prostitution.
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