Cambodia’s Mission to UN slams the special rapporteurs


The Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of Cambodia to the United Nations in Geneva has slammed the four special rapporteurs dealing with human rights in Cambodia, who released a statement on Monday urging the government to review their approach to COVID-19, describing a series of harsh new legal and administrative measures.

In a statement released yesterday, Cambodia’s Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the UN at Geneva An Sokkhoeurn said he was deeply disturbed by the special rapporteurs’ statement, as it did not take into account the bigger picture as to Cambodia’s race against the coronavirus.


“The purported experts, being not the UN staff, but serving in their individual capacity, always feel that things should be acted differently based on their personal opinions. They take no liability if their experiment fails,” he said.

The four special rapporteurs referred to are Rhona Smith, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia; Clement Nyaletsossi Voule, the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association; Joseph Cannataci, the Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy; and Tlaleng Mofokeng, Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.


These UN experts said: “Restrictions on fundamental freedoms and rights on public health grounds must not breach rights and freedoms guaranteed by international human rights law, must be proportionate, non-discriminatory, time-bound and purpose limited.”


They added that they are concerned that the administrative and penal measures including excessive prison sentences and fines provided in the law appear to be disproportionate and unwarranted and that all measures taken to fight the pandemic, including possible punishments, should be necessary and proportionate and not be used excessively.


However, the Permanent Mission of Cambodia affirmed that the Kingdom’s fight against COVID-19 integrates human rights values and leaves no one behind.


“Only full and effective enforcement of all combined health, administrative and other actions is critical to secure lifesaving, public health safety and an early return to new normal life. The Special Rapporteurs have to recognise the priority and play a responsible role in a manner that complements on the ground rather than detracts from the operation of lifesaving and suppression of community transmission,” Sokkhoeurn said.

He said the elected government of Cambodia always takes full responsibilities for its risk-based decision-making and that the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic requires extraordinary and unprecedented actions, taking into account national circumstances.


“The fact that a series of combined moves, including the travel ban and partial lockdown of affected zones, that Cambodia has taken were lauded by the regional director and country Representative of the World Health Organization (WHO) is indisputable,” he added


According to him, all of those steps adhere to the principles of legality, necessity and proportionality.


He described the concern expressed by the UN experts over the Law on Preventive Measures against the Spread of the COVID-19 as prejudiced and exaggerated.


“The disclosure of limited personal identity of certain individuals positive of COVID-19 by the Phnom Penh Capital Administration is permissible in Article 4 of the above-said law and relevant regulations. It is always a tough yet urgent decision with absolute necessity to speedily break the chain of community transmission associated with the ‘February 20 incident’ in the interest of public health safety and security of the entire population guaranteed by international law,” he added.

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