Cambodia: Press Release: Constitutional Council must reject problematic provisions of the Law on Associations and NGOs
Paris, Geneva, Phnom Penh, July 28, 2015 –
Cambodia’s Constitutional Council must reject the numerous provisions of the
Law on Associations and Non-Governmental Organizations
(LANGO) that run counter to the country’s Charter, the Observatory for the
Protection of Human Rights Defenders said today.
Constitutional Council is expected to review the LANGO by the end of July.
Cambodia’s Constitution empowers the
Council to rule on the constitutionality of laws adopted by Parliament.
According to Article 142 of the Charter, provisions of legislation passed by
Parliament that the Constitutional Council finds unconstitutional “shall not be
promulgated or implemented.”
“The Constitutional Council must uphold its role
of guardian of the Constitution and reject the numerous provisions of the LANGO
that contradict key constitutional principles,” said FIDH President Karim Lahidji.
Article 35 of the Constitution grants all
citizens the right to “participate actively in the political, economic, social
and cultural life of the nation.” In contrast, Articles 8 and 9 of the LANGO
infringe on this constitutionally-guaranteed right. Article 8 imposes a
mandatory and highly discretionary registration process for all associations
and NGOs. Article 9 compounds the situation, as it bans unregistered domestic
associations and NGOs from conducting any activities. In addition,
Article 24 of the LANGO requires domestic NGOs to maintain an undefined concept
of “political neutrality.” This clause is not in line with Article 41 of the
Constitution, which guarantees the right to freedom of opinion.
The above-mentioned provisions of LANGO
also run afoul of the Constitution because they negate Article 31, which states
that Cambodia recognizes and respects human rights as enshrined in the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and “all the treaties and
conventions related to human rights, women’s rights and children’s rights.”
Articles 19 and 20 of the UDHR and Articles 19 and 22 of the International
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) guarantee the right to freedom
of opinion, expression, and association. Cambodia is a state party to the
“The key tenets of the LANGO are clearly
unconstitutional. A reasoned analysis of the LANGO shows that the government
completely ignored the country’s highest law when it drafted this awful piece
of legislation,” said OMCT Secretary General Gerald
The LANGO was adopted by the National Assembly and
the Senate on July 13 and 24 respectively. On both occasions, elected
representatives from the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), which holds the
majority in both houses of Parliament, voted in favour of passing the LANGO,
while members of the opposition boycotted the vote to protest the draft law.
The Observatory had
previously called for the withdrawal of the LANGO because it was drafted
without any meaningful consultation with concerned stakeholders. The LANGO
contains unnecessary restrictions on the right to freedom of association,
excessive penalties, and grants authorities indiscriminate and arbitrary powers
over registration and de-registration of civil society groups and NGOs. The LANGO
legalizes the control and
censorship of activities undertaken by domestic and international associations
restrictions on the right to freedom of association contained in the LANGO go
well beyond the permissible limitations allowed by international human rights
law and serve no legitimate purpose. The Observatory maintains that the legislation already in force in Cambodia is sufficient to
appropriately regulate the activities of associations and NGOs and to allow the
prosecution of criminal acts if committed.
Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (OBS) was created in
1997 by FIDH and OMCT. The objective of this programme is to intervene to
prevent or remedy to situations of repression against human rights defenders.
For more information, please contact:
FIDH: Arthur Manet/Lucie Kroening: + 33 1 43 55 25 18
OMCT: Miguel Martín Zumalacárregui: +41 22 809 49 24