Australia should stop weakening UN efforts to defend human rights in Cambodia

 Australia has been accused of seeking to weaken criticism of Cambodia’s appalling human rights record during negotiations on an important resolution at the United Nation’s Human Rights Council in Geneva.

The Human Rights Law Centre’s Director of Advocacy and Research, Emily Howie, said it was deeply disappointing that Australia was putting its political interests ahead of the important human rights work of the UN.

“During the very same week that Julie Bishop has confirmed Australia is seeking a spot on the UN Human Rights Council claiming it wants to defend democratic freedoms and institutions around the world, we see Australia completely undermining its reputation at the UN as a potential defender of human rights,” said Ms Howie.

The Human Rights Council is currently negotiating a resolution criticising various anti-democratic measures in Cambodia. Among Western European and Other Group States, Australia has distinguished itself by seeking to weaken or exclude language calling for the repeal of Cambodia’s controversial NGO and Associations laws.

“Australia’s statements on Cambodia are out of touch with reality on the ground and risk undercutting the work of the council to protect and promote human rights in Cambodia. Let’s face it, Australia has a vested interest in Cambodia as a country that Australia is paying to resettle refugees it detains on Nauru and it’s clearly letting that interest cloud its judgement,” said Ms Howie.

Australia has paid Cambodia $55 million to resettle refugees but since the resettlement detail was announced only 4 refugees have been resettled.

Last week, the Human Rights Law Centre and Human Rights Watch released a report calling on Australia to improve its leadership on human rights at home and abroad ahead of the UN Human Rights Council bid.

“If Australia wants a seat on the council, it needs to step up to these kind of opportunities and start taking a more consistent and principled approach to defending human rights,” said Ms Howie.  


For further information or comments, please contact Emily Howie on 0421 370 997