Country-Specific Mandate-Holders: The Role of the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Cambodia

By Smyth, Laura | Melbourne Journal of International Law, June 2014 | Go to article overview

Country-Specific Mandate-Holders: The Role of the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Cambodia


Smyth, Laura, Melbourne Journal of International Law


CONTENTS  I Introduction II The Basis for Intervention by Special Procedures Mandate-Holders III Mandate of the Cambodian Special Representative and Its       Effectiveness     A The Hon Michael Kirby--1993 to 1996     B Mr Thomas Hammarberg--1996 to 2000     C Dr Peter Leuprecht--2000 to 2005     D Professor Yash Ghai--2005 to 2008     E Professor Surya Subedi--2009 to 2013 IV Constraints on the Role of Special Procedures Mandate-Holders and       the Consequences for Human Rights Developments    A Direction Provided to Special Representatives and Rapporteurs on       the Scope of Their Investigations    B Resource Limitations    C Implementation of Recommendations and the UN's Response V Conclusions 

I INTRODUCTION

In 1991, the Agreement on a Comprehensive Political Settlement of the Cambodia Conflict and the Agreement Concerning the Sovereignty, Independence, Territorial Integrity and Inviolability, Neutrality and National Unity of Cambodia ('Agreements') (1) set out a roadmap for Cambodian society after the atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge during the 1970s and the many years of internal and regional conflict that followed. The Agreements addressed the practicalities of settling the conflict, but also sought to address the expectations of state actors, non-state actors and much of the international community regarding human rights in Cambodia. In doing so, the Agreements contemplated that a special representative of the united Nations would be appointed to address human rights issues in what would, it was hoped, might be a successful post-conflict society.

More than twenty years after the Agreements, this paper considers the circumstances role of the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Cambodia (formerly the Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the united Nations for Human Rights in Cambodia) and the extent to which the mandate has been fulfilled. Prior to 2008, a Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Human Rights in Cambodia had been appointed. The special procedures mandate in Cambodia was extended in 2008 at which time the Human Rights Council established the role of 'special rapporteur' to carry out the former functions of the Special Representative to the Secretary-General. (2) This did not substantively change the functions of the mandate, but merely reflected the standardisation of special procedure names.

The Cambodian mandate is one of the longest-standing country-specific mandates within the uN system of special procedures. As such, it is useful in demonstrating some of the practical limitations faced by country-specific mandate-holders. of the three other country-specific mandates that have been in place for at least as long as that of Cambodia, it seems that there is either significant continued internal conflict in the relevant countries or very limited engagement with the UN. (3) Even though it has at times been a very 1 uncomfortable and/or antagonistic engagement, as will be discussed below, the Government of Cambodia has, to some degree, remained in contact with the special representatives and rapporteurs and other agents of the UN throughout the term of the mandate and has regularly facilitated missions to the country by successive mandate-holders.

When the UN Economic and Social Council ('ECOSOC') embarked upon the creation of special procedures, it was motivated by the need to respond to grave and systematic rights violations. As will be discussed below, the scope of mandates has expanded somewhat since then. As the Cambodian mandate has been in place for over 20 years, it is an opportune time to consider whether grave or systematic rights violations have been effectively responded to or whether many of the problems identified by the Special Representative at the outset have persisted with little evidence of change.

A substantial volume of recommendations has been made by successive mandate-holders since the early 1990s. …

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