The Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC) is Cambodia's oldest human rights organization. It was founded by a group of former political prisoners in December 1991, shortly after the signing of the Paris Peace Agreements, which put an end to several decades of civil war in Cambodia.
ADHOC operates as an NGO. It sets out to investigate human rights violations in Cambodia, provide free legal assistance, empower citizens and grassroots communities, and engage in advocacy work through its Central Office (located in Phnom Penh) and 22 provincial offices, reaching out to all districts in the country.
ADHOC is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit and non-governmental organization.
ADHOC's first office was in a Buddhist temple in Phnom Penh. It began operating immediately and, with donations, grew rapidly. By 1992, ADHOC had expanded its support for victims of human rights violations, was actively reminding the government of its democratic and legal duties, and was officially registered. In its early years, ADHOC's leaders, some of whom had been imprisoned for peacefully exercising their right to free speech, faced much intimidation by local authorities.
Vision, mission and goals
ADHOC maintains offices in an unequaled 22 Cambodian provinces and municipalities, out of 25 (Kep province is covered by ADHOC's office in Kampot) and ADHOC's Kampong Cham office covers the newly created Tboung Khmum province. ADHOC's unique geographical reach enables it to assist victims of human rights abuses across the country. In the last few years, through its sections (the Land and Natural Resources Rights section, the Human Rights Monitoring section and the Women's and Children's Rights section) and its Khmer Rouge Tribunal program, it has been working on issues such as:
- Land conflicts and land grabbing by the rich and powerful;
- Torture (which is still widely used in Cambodia);
- Freedom of expression and freedom of assembly;
- Human trafficking, domestic violence and rape;
- On the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, ADHOC has been conducting sensitization activities and trainings and has been providing civil parties with psychological counseling and legal aid. Beyond these issues, ADHOC's mandate covers all human rights violations and abuses, in line with international human rights law.
ADHOC protest monitors maintain a strong presence Phnom Penh and the provinces. ADHOC witnesses and reports on human rights abuses when they occur, and brings them national and international attention through its advocacy activities.
ADHOC runs an Alternative Dispute Resolution programme in conjunction with Tilberg University in the Netherlands. This innovative programme aims to provide micro-justice to poor and marginalized communities in small-scale conflicts. It has been widely lauded as a success.
ADHOC's mission is to strengthen the capacity of ordinary citizens, enable them to defend their own rights, and advocate for better governance and full respect for human rights and the rule of law. ADHOC aims to empower ordinary citizens so that they can claim respect for their rights and to assist victims of human rights abuses in their quest for justice.
Medium and long-term goals include bringing about changes in policies and practices of democratic institutions (especially the judicial system), and strengthening civil society as a whole.
ADHOC's core activities include:
- Investigation into cases of human rights violations and monitoring of Cambodia's human rights record;
- Assistance to victims, which includes legal aid, social assistance, and material and medical assistance;
- Mediation, through alternative dispute resolution;
- Empowerment of citizens and grassroots communities through legal education programs, training sessions on citizens' rights and how to defend them, and provision of network building and advocacy skills;
- Sensitization forums with victims and ex-victims of violence as well as their communities; and
- Advocacy (publication of reports, articles and press releases and organization of public forums with the participation of victims, local authorities and focal points (such as Cadastral Commissions), with a view to settling long-standing disputes.
86 staff members currently work with ADHOC, including three foreigners and 40% of women. 38 employees work at ADHOC's Central Office, located in Phnom Penh. ADHOC receives funding from European (Oxfam Novib, Oxfam GB, Diakonia, Danida, DCA-CA, the European Union, Misereor, Comité catholique contre la faim et pour le développement (CCFD), the French Embassy, the British Embassy...), American (USAID though The Asia Foundation and EWMI), and international partners (United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture, or UNVFVT). The association's working languages are Khmer and English.
ADHOC staff have frequently been harassed and intimidated by the authorities. Several employees have faced legal proceedings following the assistance they provided to victims of land grabbing.
ADHOC also works with international organizations and Cambodian and international NGOs, including the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO) and CCHR. ADHOC is a member of Forum-Asia and the International Federation for Human Rights (Fidh).