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Independent human rights committee to be formed

Thong Sotha​​   On July 13, 2021 - 12:26 pm​   In Cambodia Insider  
Independent human rights committee to be formed Cambodia Human Rights Commission (CHRC) member Orn Katta during a meeting. Facebook

The National Human Rights Committee of Cambodia (NHRC) draft law is currently being prepared by the Cambodian Human Rights Committee (CHRC) to be sent to the Council of Ministers for approval before the National Assembly vote on it.

The NHRC will be independent of the government with 32 Articles in the law governing the committee. CHRC member Katta Orn likened it to the structure of the National Election Committee.

Orn told yesterday that this law will establish and determine the organisation and functioning of the NHRC in compliance with the Paris Peace Agreement, in order to promote and protect human rights in accordance with the provisions enshrined in the Constitution, the Charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international instruments related to human rights.

He said that the roles and responsibilities of the two committees are different. While the NHRC will be established by the government and the National Assembly, when it is formed in the future, it will be independent and separate from the government and not under the authority of the government or any institution.

The draft law will be sent to the Council of Ministers for approval and then sent to the National Assembly in 2022. However, Orn could not confirm the exact date when the law would come into force and the NHRC would be formally established, he said.

The NHRC will be under the Office of the Council of the Ministers.

The leadership of the NHRC Council, including its chairman, vice-chair and members, are elected by the government, said Orn.

However, the leadership of the NHRC will be open to the public and approved by the National Assembly, not the government.

Orn said that it will be composed of seven members, recruited by the Selection Committee. The NHRC shall be led by one president, one vice-president and five members.

The president will have the same status and privileges as deputy prime minister, the vice-president will have the same status and privileges as senior minister and the members will have the same status and privileges as minister.

“It is our expectation, as well as the people who always want an independent institution, to work independently to ensure the better development of human rights in Cambodia,” he said. “Especially to show responsibility for the protection and respect for human rights in Cambodia even better than before.”

The establishment of the new committee has been criticised by some civil society organisations for government bias and lack of independence.

Independent Democracy of Informal Economy Association president Vorn Pov told Khmer Times yesterday that if the new human rights committee was to be set up by a real human rights group, it would provide a benefit to the cause of human rights. On the other hand, if it is set up by a pro-government organisation, he thinks that there is no belief in human rights obligations.

“We believe in the establishment of human rights organisations by local independent organisations, which can ensure an unbiased interpretation of the government,” he said.

According to the draft law, NHRC members must have the following qualifications: Khmer nationality, at least 35-years-old as of the date of appointment, have at least 10 years of work experience in the area of law or human rights, and never convicted of any misdemeanor or felony within the last five years before the appointment.

The president, vice-president and members of the NHRC shall have a mandate of five years and may be eligible only for one more additional term. The mandate of the outgoing members shall be ended when the new membership takes office. The recruitment of the NHRC members shall be organised within 120 days before the end of each mandate.

The president, vice-president and members of the NHRC shall perform their duty full-time during their mandate.

In case the president, vice-president or any member loses membership in line with Article 13 of the law, within a period of not more than 30 days, the Permanent Committee of the National Assembly shall carry out the formality of selection in accordance with Articles 7 and 10 of the law. Khmer Times