Professor Rhona Smith’s Personal View on State of Emergency Law is Misleading, Unfounded and Biased, says Cambodia Mission in Geneva

AKP Phnom Penh, April 18, 2020 —

The Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of Cambodia to the United Nations Office at Geneva has issued a statement considering the personal view of Professor Rhona Smith, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia on State of Emergency Law as misleading, unfounded and biased.

The full statement dated April 17, 2020 reads as follows:

“The Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of Cambodia to the United Nations Office at Geneva is dismayed at and deplores the press statement of Professor Rhona Smith, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia, dated on 17 April 2020, as for the nature of the Law on the Management of the Nation in State of Emergency (LMNSE).

As it contains biased and misleading elements with political ground, the Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of Cambodia has no choice but to take a few moments to offer factual and legal clarifications as follows:

  1. Her assertion that the LMNSE jeopardises human rights is unfounded and indicative of a selective and biased application of the human rights. The fact is that this legislation is permissible by national and international human rights instruments, namely the Constitution (Article 22 new, Article 31, Article 86 and Article 102 new), the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 29), and International Covenant on Civil Political Rights (Article 4).
  1. Amid of fast-evolving Covid-19 pandemic, leaders of at least 70 countries across the globe have proclaimed states of emergency and lockdown measures to prevent and contain the spread of this virus by inter alia provisionally derogating the people’s freedom of movement, rights to peaceful assembly and privacy. Therefore, it is unfair to chide Cambodia for this vital legislation.
  1. Cambodia attaches great importance to rights to life and health based on its national capacity. In the spirit of humanitarian and international solidarity, Cambodia has allowed the Westerdam cruise ship, loaded with more than 2,200 passengers, to dock. In addition, Cambodia has offered treatments at no cost to both Cambodian and foreign nationals, infected with the Covid-19. The recovery of 98 out of 122 patients (accounting for 80.33% as of today) attests to great attention and capability of Cambodia’s health services. Unfortunately, the Special Rapporteur and her fellows have never ever publicly appreciated this compassionate gesture and effectiveness of the health services, which seek to secure the right to life and survival. This is merely one of the instances they have underreported the Kingdom’s rights achievements.
  1. Cambodia’s legislation adheres to the principles of accountability, proportionality, necessity and non-discrimination. The powers delegated to the government during state of emergency are not without any limit. Articles 86 and 102 new of the Constitution overtly set forth a monitoring mechanism by the two-chamber parliament of Cambodia. In addition, any law enforcement officers engaging in arbitrary conducts and abuse of the law shall be punishable before the court of law.
  1. The LMNSE will be invoked only in a situation necessitating additional measures with a desperate need for safeguarding and maintaining national security and public order to protect the people’s lives, public health, public interest and property of citizens as a whole. Furthermore, the state of emergency is to be proclaimed within a specific period of time for the whole or certain geographical scope of a country where the condition is exacerbated and out of control.
  1. A law must prescribe sanctions for non-compliance if we are to ensure its effective enforcement. The decision and scope of the penalty to be handed are at the discretion of the judicial power, taking into account aggravating circumstances, not an economic situation. In Cambodia, all citizens are equally treated before the law regardless of their political affiliations, professions or social status as enshrined in Article 31 of the Constitution. Compared to other Asian and European countries, Cambodia’s LMNSE is more lenient in terms of powers and punitive actions.

The Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of Cambodia urges the Special Rapporteur to abide by the purposes and principles of the United Nations and to perform her duties impartially and objectively with a strict adherence to the Code of Conduct as well as the Operational Manual of the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council.

As such, the Special Rapporteur, who is not the UN staff member but serves in the personal capacity, should refrain from making public statements that could mislead public opinion, imply any kind of value judgement, and be construed as an act of interference in internal affairs of a sovereign state.”

By C. Nika