Thursday, February 24, 2011
An independent United Nations expert voiced his concern yesterday about the use of the crime of incitement against human rights defenders in Cambodia, while stressing the need to ensure that people can express their views peacefully and without fear. “Criticism is not a crime but an exercise of freedom of conscience, an act of intelligence,” Surya Subedi, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia, said at the end of his fourth fact-finding mission to the country.
“There is a narrowing of space for people to express their views peacefully and without fear, including those belonging to different political parties,” he warned. “The peaceful expression of opinion should not be dealt with under the Penal Code as is currently the case with crimes such as defamation and falsification of information.”
The 15 to 24 February visit focused on the capacity of parliament to uphold the rights of the people and democratic norms.
“Democracy is not only about holding periodic elections, but developing a culture of debate, pluralism and participation. A properly functioning democracy requires an effective opposition,” said the expert, who reports in an independent and unpaid capacity to the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council.
Mr. Subedi welcomed efforts taken by the Government to improve the situation of human rights, including those related to the judiciary, land rights and housing issues, preventing torture, and peaceful demonstrations.
(Adapted from a UN Press Release)