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[HRC52 Oral Statement] Item 2: General debate on the oral update by the High Commissioner

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52nd regular session of the UN Human Rights Council

Item 2: General debate on the oral update by the High Commissioner

Oral statement delivered by Ahmed Adam

On behalf of Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)

8 March 2023

Mr. President,

We thank the High Commissioner for his comprehensive update. We share the High Commissioner’s concerns about the systematic suppression of civil society and political opposition in Cambodia and Bangladesh especially in the lead up to upcoming elections, raising serious questions about conditions for credible elections.

In Cambodia, the cancellation of the license of one the last surviving independent news outlets in the country, Voice of Democracy, and sentencing of the opposition leader, Kem Sokha, last week, to 27 years in prison on politically motivated trumped up charges represent the latest escalation in the on going crackdown on independent media, critical voices and the political opposition.

The government must, at minimum, implement the 20 benchmarks presented by the Special Rapporteur in September to create conditions for an election that has any semblance of credibility.

In Bangladesh, criminal charges and prolonged investigations against investigative journalist Rozina Islam in clear retaliation for her reporting, and ongoing judicial harassment of human rights NGO Odhikar and its leaders Adilur Rahman Khan and Nasiruddin Elan, as well as the recent shutting down of the opposition newspaper, Dainik Dinkal, raise serious questions about the country’s compliance with its international obligations and principles of plural democracy.

We call on Bangladesh to end this pattern of abusing state institutions, including the judiciary, to silence human rights defenders, journalists, civil society and the political opposition, ensure their independence, and review the Digital Security Act and other repressive laws in line with its international obligations.

We urge the High Commissioner to continue to closely monitor and publicly report on the situations in Cambodia and Bangladesh, especially in the context of the upcoming elections.

Thank you.