UN Human Rights Official Wraps Visit, ‘Saddened’ by Violence

U.N. Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Flavia Pansieri on Friday wrapped up a five-day mission to Cambodia, saying that she was concerned and “deeply saddened” by the violent beating of bystanders and journalists after a May Day gathering near a cordoned-off Freedom Park.

In prepared remarks delivered at the OHCHR office in Phnom Penh, Ms. Pansieri said she regretted having to come to the conclusion that the human rights situation in Cambodia has deteriorated this year, punctuated by the killing of six people during garment strikes and an ongoing municipal and government ban on assembly.

“The use of excessive force raises serious concerns about the role of the district security guards in dealing with demonstrations and public order,” Ms. Pansieri said at the end of a week that saw her meet with Foreign Minister Hor Namhong, Cambodian Human Rights Committee President Om Yentieng and unionists detained at Prey Sar prison.

“I reiterate the view that the ‘ban’ on demonstrations falls short of

the test of legality, necessity and proportionality.”

In an interview after her speech, asked if she had received any assurances from government officials that the state killings would be properly investigated, Ms. Pansieri said she had not.

“Let me say that I have mentioned [it during discussions], but I can’t say I have received firm indications of what would be the next steps,” she said.

“If there are objective reasons and documented evidence for sanctioning any behavior that goes against the law, that should happen irrespective of who is the perpetrator.”

At Australia’s request, the Cambodian government this week agreed in principle to accept asylum seekers intercepted while making their way to Australia, but Ms. Pansieri declined to comment on whether she considers Cambodia a desirable place to send refugees or asylum seekers.

“Do we want to say we are concerned and therefore we don’t want to engage, or we say there are some issues, these are the principles that have to be applied and if they haven’t been applied in the past, it is essential that guarantees are put in place?” she asked.

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