Cambodian Center for Human Rights
|Founded||November 2002 by Kem Sokha in the Kingdom of Cambodia|
|Key people||Ou Virak (President)|
|Service(s)||Protecting human rights|
|Method(s)||Media attention, direct-appeal campaigns, research, lobbying|
The Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) is a non-partisan, independent, non-governmental organization that works to promote and protect democracy and respect for human rights throughout Cambodia. It focuses primarily on civil and political rights and on a variety of interlinked human rights issues. The white bird flying out of a circle of sky blue on the logo of the organization symbolizes Cambodia’s quest for freedom.
The CCHR's members of staff are grouped into four specialist Units that reflect the scope of its work:
- Freedom of Expression - Through its recognition of international human rights mechanisms in Article 31 and expressly in Article 41, the Constitution of Cambodia provides for freedom of expression for all Cambodians. The CCHR's Freedom of Expression Unit works to make freedom of expression the norm in Cambodia, restriction the exception. Without freedom of expression - where space is provided for dialogue, criticism and new ideas - Cambodia’s human rights problems will never be resolved.
- Fair Trials - Cambodia is bound by the Paris Peace Agreements of 1991 which include guarantees for independence of the judiciary and the right to a fair and public hearing by a competent, independent, and impartial tribunal. The Constitution of Cambodia provides that Cambodia shall recognize and respect human rights as stipulated in all relevant international instruments (including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)). It provides also for the separation of powers and an independent judiciary guaranteed by the King with the assistance of the Supreme Council of the Magistracy. The CCHR's Fair Trials Unit works to encourage fairer trials in Cambodia which reflect the constitutional guarantees and protections outlined above.
- Land Rights - The Cambodia Land Law of 2001 sets out in detail how Cambodians’ land rights should be protected. The Land Rights Unit works to discourage unlawful land-grabbing in Cambodia and to promote peaceful resolution where conflict does arise.
- Democracy - The Constitution of Cambodia states that the country has united for ‘the restoration of Cambodia into an "Island of Peace" based on a multi-party liberal democratic regime guaranteeing human rights, abiding by law, and having high responsibility for the nation's future destiny of moving toward perpetual progress, development, prosperity, and glory.' The CCHR works to uphold these fundamentals by bringing elected officials and political party representatives face to face with marginalised groups, with the twin objectives of holding these leaders accountable to their electorate and providing space for citizens to understand democracy, experience the democratic process, raise issues of concern relating to development, poverty and human rights, and engage with political parties and polices to advocate for themselves and effect change. The CCHR's primary goal in this area is for Cambodia to have a more inclusive democracy.
The CCHR's staff work through three Programs:
- Community Empowerment Program (CEP) - designed to empower marginalised Cambodians at the grassroots level, enabling them to understand principles of democracy and human rights, giving them the voice and opportunities to air their concerns and advocate for change, and providing alternative mechanisms for conflict resolution. The CEP includes the Community Training Project, aimed at providing disadvantaged rural and urban communities affected by land conflicts and other human rights violations with basic knowledge about their human rights, the relevant Cambodian legislation, and the [democratic] and lawful methods to defend these rights; the Community Hearings Project, a form of alternative conflict resolution provides disadvantaged rural and urban communities that have been affected by particular land conflicts and related human rights violations with an opportunity to have their concerns heard by local authorities, parliamentarians, representatives from the major political parties, NGO representatives, and other interested stakeholders; and the Public Forums Project, the CCHR's ‘signature’ project aimed at providing communities affected by human rights violations with the opportunity to discuss their concerns with and ask questions to local authorities, parliamentarians, representatives from the major political parties, NGO representatives, and other interested stakeholders.
- Monitoring, Research, Documentation & Information Program (MRDIP) - the CCHR works with other NGOs to monitor human rights, research issues of concern, document its findings and provide information to Cambodians and other interested stakeholders on the human rights situation in Cambodia. The CCHR aims to encourage a more sophisticated and collaborative approach by civil society in Cambodia. The MRDIP includes the 24-hour telephone Human Rights Hotline that Cambodians can call to inform the CCHR about human rights violations; the user-friendly electronic Human Rights Database that has been developed by Human Rights Documentation and Information System International (HURIDOCS) and enables the electronic documentation of human rights violations including information; and the Human Rights Portal for Cambodia ('Sithi'), a new website designed to be the best online resource for information on democracy and human rights in Cambodia.
- Advocacy Program (AP) - The CEP enables communities to set the agenda for the CCHR's advocacy; the MRDIP provides the CCHR with the data and analysis with which to back this up. Based on these solid foundations, the AP includes policy and legislation proposals, dialogue, report writing, lobbying and campaigning. Collaboration with other NGOs and engagement with all stakeholders including the government underlie the program.
The CCHR was founded in 2002 by Kem Sokha, a member of the Cambodian National Assembly (1993–1998) and Senator (1999–2002), and current member of the Cambodian National Assembly (2008- ) and leader of the Human Rights Party.The CCHR was registered with the Ministry of Interior in October 2002 and officially launched on 12 November 2002 to promote and protect democracy and human rights in Cambodia. It was to be governed by an impressive Board of Directors who shared a passion for human rights and Cambodia.
During Kem Sokha’s leadership, the CCHR became renowned for organising regular public forums throughout Cambodia. These remain the key project of the CCHR's Community Empowerment Program. In December 2006, Kem Sokha and other civil rights leaders were arrested and imprisoned for allegedly defaming the Cambodian government. They were released after a campaign led by the CCHR’s current President Ou Virak. Kem Sokha was President of the CCHR from its launch to March 2007, when he resigned to form the Human Rights Party.
Since April 2007, the CCHR has been led by Ou Virak. Ou Virak is the founder of the Alliance for Freedom of Expression in Cambodia (AFEC), and in 2007 he won the Reebok Human Rights Award for his earlier civil society campaign to secure the release of Kem Sokha and the decriminalization of defamation in Cambodia.
Ou Virak hired British lawyer Rupert Abbott as CCHR Director of Development and Programs from December 2008 to September 2010. They promoted the Decentralization of Human Rights Advocacy in Cambodia, whereby larger more-established Human Rights organisations would work to empower communities and smaller Civil Society groups seeking to promote and protect Human Rights. A number of CCHR's projects reflect this approach, including the Community Trainings and Hearings Project, the Human Rights Network Project, the Human Rights Portal Project, the Public Forums Project and the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Project.
Board of Directors
The Board of Directors includes:
- Son Soubert, a Member of the Constitutional Council of Cambodia, former Vice Speaker of the Cambodian National Assembly, former President of the Buddhist Liberal Democratic Party of Cambodia, President of the Son Sann Foundation and the son of Son Sann (Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Cambodia (1967–68));
- Kek Galabru, one of Cambodia’s leading human rights advocates, founder of the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO), and nominee for the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize as part of the 1000 Women for the Nobel Peace Prize project; and
- Lao Mong Hay, a prominent and well-respected scholar of the politics of Cambodia and human rights, a Senior Researcher at the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), and winner of the Human Rights Watch Award (1997) and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Nansen Medal (2000).
- Jonathan Aitken, an author and broadcaster, Director of Prison Fellowship International, Executive Director of the Trinity Forum in Europe, Honorary President of Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Chairman of the Centre for Social Justice’s policy study group on Prison reform, and former British Member of Parliament and Cabinet Minister;
- Barbara Crossette, a journalist and author, The New York Times bureau chief at the United Nations from 1994 to 2001 and former chief correspondent in Southeast Asia and South Asia, and winner of the George Polk Award (1991), The Silurians 25-Year Achievement Award (1998), the Business Council of the United Nations Korn Ferry Award (1998), and the United Nations Correspondents Association lifetime achievement award (2003); and
- Wayne Jordash, a British international criminal defence lawyer who has represented clients in the United Kingdom, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia and the Special Court for Sierra Leone.
The CCHR is managed day to day by the Management Committee, which is chaired by the President Ou Virak.
Affiliations and Cooperation
The CCHR is informally affiliated to and cooperates with a number of national, regional and international organizations. These relationships strengthen its work to promote and protect human rights in Cambodia. For example, the CCHR coordinates the Alliance for Freedom of Expression in Cambodia (AFEC), working with other NGOs to promote and protect freedom of expression, information and assembly in Cambodia; it works with the Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA) on campaigns and joint press releases relating to press freedom and has worked with Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) to engage with the United Nations Human Rights Council's new Universal Periodic Review (UPR) mechanism.
Donors and Supporters
The CCHR's donors include the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), the European Commission (EC), the East West Management Institute (EWMI), the Asia Foundation, the Open Society Institute (OSI) and Konrad Adenaeur Stiftung (KAS). Other supporters include the Human Rights section of the Law Society of England and Wales, Oxford University and the University of Sussex in the United Kingdom, and the global law firm Baker & McKenzie.
- "What we do", CCHR, http://www.cchrcambodia.org/English/index.php
- Article 3, Bye Laws, CCHR, available at http://www.cchrcambodia.org/English/cchr/CCHR%20constitution%20english.pdf
- Constitution of Cambodia (1993)
- Agreements on a Comprehensive Settlement on the Cambodian Conflict (1991), available at http://www.cambodia.org/facts/Paris_Peace_Agreement_10231991.php
- Land Law for Cambodia (2001), available at http://www.gocambodia.com/laws/pdf/law-01-land%20law-e.pdf
- Seth Mydans, 2006, "Haunted by Past Horrors, Cambodians Speak Out", http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9C0DE1DC1E3FF933A05752C0A9609C8B63&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=2,
- For example, see http://www.cchrcambodia.org/English/media&publications/reports&publications/Joint_UPR_Submission_Cambodia_ENG.pdf
- Guy De Launey, "Cambodia Arrests Rights Activists", 31 December 2005, BBC News, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/4572208.stm
- "We are trying to change the law", Reebok Human Rights Award (2007), http://www.reebok.com/Static/global/initiatives/rights/awards/recipients/virak.html
- Testimonial, Rupert Abbott, website of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights.
- NGOs must adapt new development strategies, Ou Virak and Rupert Abbott. Phnom Penh Post, 3 June 2010.
- Projects, website of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights.
- Board of Directors (PDF), Cambodian Center for Human Rights, http://www.cchrcambodia.org/English/cchr/Board_of_Directors.pdf
- Pung Chhiv Kek Galabru, http://www.1000peacewomen.org/typo/index.php?id=14&L=1&WomenID=1658
- Counsellors (PDF), Cambodian Center for Human Rights,http://www.cchrcambodia.org/English/cchr/Counsellors.pdf
- Cambodia Human Rights Portal (Sithi)
- Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR)
- Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) Facebook Group