|Cambodian Joint Working Group Commits to Undertake Serious Work for an Independent NHRI|
By: Tynna Mendoza
Will Cambodia be the 5th state in ASEAN to have an independent national human rights commission?
On May 24-26, 2010, the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines (CHRP), in partnership with the Philippine Working Group for the Establishment of an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism (PWG), hosted a study visit to the Philippines of the 12-member delegation from the Joint Working Group for the Establishment of an Independent National Human Rights Commission in Cambodia.
The Joint Working Group consists of both government and non-government organizations. Headed by H.E. Mak Sambath, Secretary of State of Ministry of Council Minister and Deputy Chief of National Human Rights Committee, the government delegation included: Mr. Khiev Paov, Acting Director of Department of Investigative and Human Rights Education; Mr. Nou Sthapatia, Undersecretary of State of the Ministry of Council of Minister and a member of NHRC; Mr. Touch Sunnary, Reporting Team Officer of Ministry of Council Minister; Mr. Leng Tola, Deputy General Director for Human Right Education; Mr. Nhem Bora, General Department Official of Investigative Department and Human Rights Education; and, Ms. Sao Putheavy, Member of NHRC.
NGO Members of the Working Group were represented by Mr. An Nan of Workers Rights Consortium-WRC; Dr. Hang Puthea of Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (NICFEC); Ms. Hourt Ratanak of National Radio Kampuchea on Demand for Good Gorvenance (DFGG) program; Ms. Hok Narin of Star Kampuchea and Mr. Long Panhavuth of Cambodia Justice Initiative.
"We are very grateful to the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines, the Congress and the Presidential Human Rights Committee for welcoming us and enabling us to learn so much from the work that they do, which we believe will help us in putting up our own independent national human rights commission in our country", said Mr. Mak Sambath. "We will definitely exert best efforts to convince the Parliament to make Cambodia the 5th state in ASEAN that has an independent NHRI", he added.
The 3-day activity consisted of three parts: a general orientation on CHRP as an organization and now it operates as a NHRI; dialogues with the House Committee on Human Rights and the Presidential Human Rights Committee and an orientation/interaction on regional operations in CHRP-Region III, where the delegates experienced an actual jail visitation in Guagua Pampanga District Jail.
Each of the session became a venue for interesting discussions and queries on topics relating to human rights education and training; legal and financial assistance to human rights violation victims; legal and investigation processes; CHRP structure; the CHRP Charter; working relationship between and among CHRP, House Committee on Human Rights and Presidential Human Rights Committee and the MARTUS data banking system.
"We still have to work on improving legislation in our country and lobby further for the passage of the existing bill that will create an independent NHRC in Cambodia", said Mr. Long Panhavuth.
Over-all, the brief study visit fairly achieved the main objectives that it has set. The lessons learned have come from the participants themselves, having understood the nature and functions of an independent NHRI; learning first-hand the operations of the CHRP and setting up dialogues with other human rights institutions in the Philippines. The long-term objectives have yet to be realized, nonetheless, it is greatly expected with much optimism that these lessons will be put to practice for Cambodia's forthcoming establishment of an independent national human rights commission.