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Lack of transparency around drafting and adoption of laws restricts Cambodians' rights

UPDATE: Civil society condemns the passing of three flawed judicial reform bills and reiterates call for public consultation (CCHR, 26 May 2014)

On 5 May 2014, the Cambodian Center for Human Rights ("CCHR") released a Fundamental Freedom Fact Sheet on the right to participate actively in the life of the nation.

The Royal Government of Cambodia ("RGC") has been drafting important laws that have the potential to significantly affect the rights and freedoms of the people of the Kingdom of Cambodia ("Cambodia"). However, despite repeated calls by civil society members, no drafts of any of these recent laws have been publicly released nor have any genuine, open and inclusive consultations taken place. On the contrary, Prime Minister Hun Sen said on 28 April 2014 that the Constitution did not allow the government to send the law to someone besides the Council of Ministers and that if someone wanted to comment on a law he or she needed to be an elected Member of Parliament.

The Fact Sheet demonstrates that the opacity around the drafting and adoption of these laws restricts Cambodians' right to participate actively in the public life of the nation as guaranteed by the Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia (the "Constitution") and highlights the lack of good governance among Cambodian institutions.

An excerpt from the Fact Sheet follows.

The right to participate actively in the life of the nation

The right to participate actively in the life of the nation is guaranteed in Article 35 of the Constitution which states: "Khmer citizens of either sex shall have the right to participate actively in the political, economic, social and cultural life of the nation." This article echoes Article 21 (1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights ("UDHR"): "Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives" and Article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights ("ICCPR"): "Every citizen shall have the right [...] to take part in the conduct of public affairs, directly or through freely chosen representatives." Both the UDHR and the ICCPR are directly applicable in Cambodia as prescribed by Article 31 of the Constitution.

The concept of good governance is directly derived from these fundamental human rights. According to the former United Nations Commission on Human Rights, the key attributes of good governance include transparency, responsibility, accountability, participation and responsiveness to the needs of the people. Good governance relies on transparent, inclusive and participatory government institutions that offer to the public ways and means to participate in the public life formally or informally.

As such, the responsibility to ensure public participation lies with the government institutions, including the National Assembly. An open, transparent and participatory legislative process reinforces legitimacy, consensus, and helps exercise oversight and accountability of peoples and institutions. Consultation also improves the quality of laws and compliance.

In a true democracy, the people of the country should be provided with an adequate opportunity to comment on the content of draft laws prior to adoption by the legislature in order to uphold the rights enshrined in the Constitution and international human rights law.

Download the CCHR Fact Sheet.
cambodia_right_to_participate_actively_cchr.pdf (520 KB)

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