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Restricting peaceful gatherings to "freedom parks" stifles freedom of expression, says CCHR

(CCHR/IFEX) - 15 July 2011 - The Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) is concerned about the misuse of the 2009 Law on Peaceful Assembly (the "Demonstration Law") to suppress freedom of expression and assembly in the Kingdom of Cambodia, specifically the disturbing drift towards restricting peaceful gatherings or protests to "freedom parks", in contravention of the Demonstration Law and the freedoms of expression and assembly as enshrined in domestic and international law.

Introduction

This fact sheet gives an overview of the use of "freedom parks" in Cambodia – introduced into the Cambodian lexicon and consciousness by the Demonstration Law – in particular, the concern that freedom parks are being used to restrict the freedoms of expression and assembly in Cambodia.

The fundamental freedoms – domestic and international law

The rights to freedom of expression and assembly are protected and promoted under Cambodian law. Article 35 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia (the "Constitution") provides that all Khmer citizens shall have the right to participate actively in the political life of the nation. Article 41 states that all citizens shall have freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. Article 31 states that Cambodia shall recognize and respect the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (the "UDHR") and the covenants and conventions related to human rights, thereby incorporating the UDHR and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (the "ICCPR") into domestic law. Article 19 of both the UDHR and the ICCPR, the latter of which Cambodia acceded to and ratified in 1992, provide for the right to freedom of expression of everyone, while Article 20 of the UDHR and Article 21 of the ICCPR provide for freedom of assembly.

The Demonstration Law and freedom parks

The Demonstration Law was passed on 17 November 2009. Its stated purpose is to guarantee the freedom of expression of Khmer citizens through peaceful assembly without negatively affecting the rights, freedoms and honor of others, or customs, public order, or national security. The Demonstration Law's scope extends to all peaceful gatherings or protests in Cambodia, except: electoral campaign rallies; gatherings related to labor disputes; parades; funeral processions; other gatherings for the purposes of serving religion, art, culture, national customs and tradition; and educational dissemination activities for social interests. The Demonstration Law requires "freedom parks" to be created within each provincial capital. Freedom parks are designated locations where peaceful demonstrators can demonstrate on the condition of 12 hours' notice, instead of the five days' notice required by the Demonstration Law to demonstrate generally. However, the Demonstration Law limits the number of demonstrators in freedom parks to 200 people, while there is no limit for general demonstrations.

Click below to download the full report
CCHR_Freedom_Parks.pdf (297 KB)

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