Section 5. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
A variety of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were somewhat cooperative and responsive to their views, but there were multiple reports of lack of cooperation and, in some cases, intimidation by government officials, including the cases against ADHOC (see section 1.e.).
Domestic and international human rights organizations faced threats and harassment from local officials and individuals with ties to the government. These took the form of restrictions on and disruptions of gatherings sponsored by NGOs, verbal intimidation, threats of legal action, and bureaucratic obstruction justified by provisions in the LANGO.
Approximately 25 human rights NGOs operated in the country, and a further 100 NGOs focused on human rights as part of their work in other areas, but only a few actively organized training programs or investigated abuses.
The United Nations or Other International Bodies: The government generally cooperated with international bodies and permitted visits by UN representatives. Rhona Smith, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in the country, conducted an official visit in March to examine the situation of disadvantaged and marginalized groups, such as women, indigenous peoples, and victims of racial and ethnic discrimination. Smith paid a follow-up visit to Phnom Penh in October. Officials often cited “administrative reasons” to explain reluctance by government officials to meet with her. The government regularly chastised UN representatives publicly for their remarks on a variety of human rights problems.
Government Human Rights Bodies: The government had three human rights bodies: two separate Committees for the Protection of Human Rights and Reception of Complaints, one under the Senate and another under the National Assembly; and the Cambodian Human Rights Committee, which reported to the prime minister’s cabinet. The committees did not hold regular meetings or conduct transparent operations. The Cambodian Human Rights Committee submitted government reports for participation in international human rights review processes, such as the Universal Periodic Review, and issued responses to reports by international organizations and government bodies, but it did not conduct independent human rights investigations. Credible human rights NGOs considered the government committees to have limited efficacy.
The government hosted the hybrid ECCC to try Khmer Rouge leaders and those most responsible for the abuses of the Khmer Rouge period. Some observers believed public comments by government leaders on matters related to the ECCC’s jurisdictional mandate constituted a form of political interference, but there was no evidence these comments inhibited the work of the court. At the end of 2015, the court began hearings related to later crimes of the Khmer Rouge regime, including allegations of genocide of the Cham minority, forced marriages, rapes, internal purges, and charges arising out of crimes committed at certain security centers and worksites.