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Release of 4 Cambodian human rights activists

Secretary-General welcomes release of Cambodian human rights activists

Breaking with a recent trend of arresting human rights activists, Cambodia has released four detainees, including the President of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights – a move that was immediately hailed by United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

In a statement issued by his spokesman in New York, the Secretary-General also expressed the hope that Prime Minister Hun Sen would “ensure freedom of expression and respect by Cambodia for its human rights obligations and the rule of law.”

On New Year’s Eve, Cambodian authorities arrested Mr. Kem Sokha, the head of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights, for defamation, prompting UN High Commissioner for Refugees Louise Arbour to warn that that and other similar detentions were threatening progress in the impoverished Southeast Asian country.

In today’s statement, Mr. Annan said Mr. Pa Nguon Tean, Mr. Kem’s deputy, was also among the four activists who had been released.

Cambodia emerged from decades of civil war, including the Khmer Rouge genocide, with the signing of the UN-brokered Paris Peace Agreement in 1991 that set the country on the road to developing a civil society, however many problems remain.

In December, 2005, Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s Special Representative, Yash Ghai, heard from representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) who complained of constraints they face in the performance of their duties, including increasing restrictions on their freedom of expression.

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