2011-Sept-A LICADHO Report- The Delusion of ... THE DELUSION OF PROGRESS: CAMBODIA’S LEGISLATIVE ASSAULT

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  • THE DELUSION OF PROGRESS: CAMBODIA’S LEGISLATIVE ASSAULT ON FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION LICADHO Report

    October 2011

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  • Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO) LICADHO is a national Cambodian human rights organization. Since its establishment in 1992, LICADHO has been at the forefront of efforts to protect civil, political, economic and social rights in Cambodia and to promote respect for them by the Cambodian government and institutions. Building on its past achievements, LICADHO continues to be an advocate for the Cambodian people and a monitor of the government through wide ranging human rights programs from its main office in Phnom Penh and 12 provincial offices.

    LICADHO pursues its activities through two programs:

    Monitoring and Protection Program:  Monitoring of State Violations and Women’s and Children’s Rights: monitors collect

    and investigate human rights violations perpetrated by the State and violations made against women and children. Victims are provided assistance through interventions with local authorities and court officials.

     Paralegal and Legal Representation: victims are provided legal advice by a paralegal team and, in key cases, legal representation by human rights lawyers.

     Prison Monitoring: researchers monitor 18 prisons to assess prison conditions and ensure that pre-trial detainees have access to legal representation.

     Medical Assistance: a medical team provides assistance to prisoners and prison officials in 12 prisons, victims of human rights violations and families in resettlement sites.

     Social Work: staff conduct needs assessments of victims and their families and provide short-term material and food.

    Promotion and Advocacy Program:  Training and Information: advocates raise awareness to specific target groups, support

    protection networks at the grassroots level and advocate for social and legal changes with women, youths and children.

     Public Advocacy and Outreach: human rights cases are compiled into a central electronic database, so that accurate information can be easily accessed and analyzed, and produced into periodic public reports (written, audio and visual).

    For More Information Contact:

    Dr. Pung Chhiv Kek, President LICADHO (Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights) #16, Street 99 Phnom Penh, Cambodia Tel: (855) 23 727 102/216 602 Fax: (855) 23 727 102/217 626 E–mail: contact@licadho-cambodia.org Web: http://www.licadho-cambodia.org

  • Contents

    INTRODUCTION ......................................................................... 1

    BACKGROUND: THE ALL-POWERFUL EXECUTIVE BRANCH ................................. 3

    LEGAL FRAMEWORK FOR EXPRESSIVE RIGHTS IN CAMBODIA ............................... 8

    Exceptions to Free Speech Cannot Swallow the Right ............................................................... 9

    PENAL CODE .............................................................................. 10

    Provisions Restricting Speech .................................................................................................... 10

    Forbidden Speech ...................................................................................................................... 11

    Speech Related to the Judicial Process ...................................................................................... 17

    Criminal Prosecution of Legal Entities ...................................................................................... 18

    Taking Photographs or Recording Conversations Could Result in Up To a Year in Prison . 20

    THE LAW ON ASSOCIATIONS AND NGOS .................................................. 21

    All groups will be required to register ...................................................................................... 21

    Opaque appeals process ............................................................................................................. 22

    There is no need for the law ....................................................................................................... 23

    The crackdown has already begun ............................................................................................ 24

    LAW ON PEACEFUL ASSEMBLY ............................................................ 27

    Authorities Often Deny Permission for Peaceful Demonstrations ......................................... 27

    Peaceful Demonstrations Are Often Broken Up With Excessive Force .................................. 28

    Demonstrations Also Often Lead to Unwarranted Arrests and Detention ............................ 29

    THE ANTI-CORRUPTION LAW ............................................................. 30

    Prosecutions to date indicate risk of abuse for political purposes .......................................... 32

    THE DRAFT TRADE UNION LAW .......................................................... 34

    Attacks on Trade Union Representatives and Activists Remain Unsolved ........................... 35

    Excessive Force Often Used in Stopping Worker Protests ...................................................... 36

    CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS .................................................... 38

  • The Delusion of Progress: Cambodia’s Legislative Assault on Freedom of Expression [1]

    INTRODUCTION The Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC) has undertaken an effort to curtail freedom of expression, assembly and association through several new pieces of restrictive legislation. Recent reports have recognized this trend, and described numerous problematic provisions in the new laws. An analysis of each new law or draft law in isolation, however, does not fully reveal the alarming extent of the government’s growing control of expressive activities. When five laws drafted or passed since 2008 are examined together, and then compared to other existing laws, an even more troubling picture of governmental control over speech and association emerges. The laws that warrant this further review and comparative analysis are: the new Penal Code, the Anti-Corruption Law, the draft Law on Unions of Enterprises (Trade Union Law), the Law on Peaceful Assembly (Demonstrations Law), and the draft Law on Associations and Non-governmental Organizations (LANGO). A comparison of the registration requirements for non-profit legal entities in the Civil Code, which goes into effect in late November 2011, with the provisions in the draft LANGO, dispels any remaining doubt about the government’s true intentions in pushing for the new law. The Civil Code, in Articles 46-118, already includes a comprehensive registration scheme, including specific requirements for the formation and registration of non-profit entities, as well as provisions governing management, dissolution, and liquidation. Those requirements have not even been tested. The LANGO, on the other hand, establishes a complete prohibition on all activity by unregistered associations and organizations, and incorporates several vague requirements that are susceptible to selective enforcement against groups deemed critical of the government. Similarly, the new Anti-Corruption Law goes beyond the new Penal Code’s corruption related offenses and fails to subject spouses and children of government officials to its financial reporting requirements, while requiring a broad swath of civil society, religious and political party actors to its provisions. More crucially, it imposes harsh criminal penalties for failure to comply with the vague financial reporting provisions. The law also imposes criminal liability on whistleblowers under poorly defined circumstances. Both of these flaws with the law run counter to well-established international law norms. And the Penal Code is itself dangerously vague and repetitive, criminalizing wide swaths of speech in multiple overlapping provisions. The draft Trade Union Law replicates provisions in Cambodia’s existing Labor Law, leading one to wonder why amendments to that law would not have sufficed. Perhaps the answer lies in provisions in the draft Trade Union Law that impose complex registration and reporting requirements, establish barriers to organizing strikes, and open trade union leaders up to significant fines for vaguely defined conduct. Finally, the Demonstrations Law completes the government’s arsenal against expression and other fundamental freedoms. Under this new law, large demonstrations must have prior

    “[P]rovisions in many laws in Cambodia, including even the new

    Penal Code, go beyond international standards in curtailing people’s

    freedoms, as do the courts’ application and interpretation of such laws.”

    — Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia,

    Surya P. Subedi, August 2011

  • [2] A LICADHO Report

    approval from the government based on a detailed notification scheme that requires the submission of photocopies of the national identification cards of three organizers, and a written statement of the number of attendees and the purpose of the event, among other requirements. The notice must be submitted at least five days in advance. Not only does the law require the notification to include information that is difficult, if not impossible to ascertain in advance, the law also gives the government absolute discretion in a