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Item 10 General Debate, JST by Sweden on behalf of the Nordic Countries

Item 10: General Debate. Joint statement by Sweden on behalf of the Nordic Countries, 26 September, 2018.

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Thank you, Mr. President,

Statement on behalf of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, 

We thank Special Rapporteur Rhona Smith for her work and for the report on the human rights situation in Cambodia.

As the report outlines, there has been a sharp decline of political and civic space in Cambodia over the past year, resulting in serious negative impact on human rights, democracy and the rule of law. This is illustrated by the dissolution of the main opposition party and the banning of many of its representatives from political activities.

The arrests, threats and harassment directed against media and civil society underscores the severity of the situation. Furthermore, opposition leaders and supporters, civil society activists and journalists have fled the country in fear of arbitrary arrest.

Democracy and the rule of law, as well as a fair and free election process, are prerequisites for the full enjoyment of human rights. Sweden, on behalf of the Nordic countries, would like to join others in expressing its deep concern over the restrictive conditions in which the Cambodian parliamentary elections took place in July.

We would like to emphasize that an election, from which the main opposition party is effectively excluded, cannot be considered neither legitimate, nor representative of the will of the Cambodian people. Free and fair elections are the cornerstone of democracy, as is the protection for the freedom of expression and opinion, and of association and peaceful assembly.

We call on the Cambodian government to drop all criminal charges against opposition leader Kem Sokha, recently released on bail, and to remove all restrictions against him. All other individuals imprisoned for exercising their fundamental rights, including the freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, must also be unconditionally released and have all charges against them dropped.

Prior to this year’s election we noted a steady progress of elections in terms of compliance with international standards.

We now call on the Government of Cambodia to reopen democratic space and to permit human rights defenders and media to engage in political life and carry out their roles freely, allowing civil society to flourish.

Thank you.