UN Official: Cambodia's Draft NGO Law Risks Breaching International Human Rights Treaty

A draft legislation that would require non-governmental organizations and other associations in Cambodia to register with the government risks violating provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a senior U.N. official has noted.

“The current draft NGO law contains a set of problematic provisions, raising concerns over a potential negative impact on Cambodian citizens’ democratic participation in furthering the development of their country,” said Maina Kiai, the U.N. special rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association.

He explained the mandatory nature of the legislation infringes on the right to freedom of association, and noted that requiring legal status for an organization to be able to open a bank account, among other things, is “not necessary for the enjoyment of the right to freedom of association.”

The draft law, which is being reviewed by Cambodia’s interior ministry, has been criticized by international and local NGOs, which said it could give the government more control over aid and development groups working in the country. These groups have called on the United Nations and other donors to impose sanctions on Cambodia should it approve the legislation.

Kiai is the second U.N. official to raise concern about the law. Surya  Subedi, the U.N. special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia, has argued that the draft law should not be passed in its current form.

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  • Ivy Mungcal

    As former senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributed to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean, and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.