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Resolution adopted unanimously by the Governing Council
at its 174rd session (Mexico, 23 April 2004)

The Governing Council of the Inter-Parliamentary Union,

Referring to the outline of the case of Mr. Chhang Song, Mr. Siphan Phay and Mr. Pou Savath, members (expelled) of the Senate of Cambodia, as contained in the report of the Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians (CL/174/12(b)-R.1), and to the resolution adopted at its 173rd session (October 2003),

Taking account of the letter of the Senate President dated 3 March 2004 and of communications from one of the sources dated 25 February and 25 March 2004,

Recalling that on 8 December 2001, two days after the then Senators concerned had spoken in the Senate against the government-sponsored Criminal Procedure Code bill, they were informed of their expulsion from their party, the Cambodian People's Party (CPP) on the ground of "wrongdoings" and, a few hours later, of their expulsion from the Senate,

Recalling that Cambodian law contains no legal provision authorising political parties to revoke a parliamentary mandate, for which reason it has considered the expulsion from the Senate of the persons concerned to be unlawful and called on the authorities to remedy this situation,

Noting that, in his letter of 3 March 2004, the Senate President reiterates his earlier arguments, namely that pursuant to the political arrangements agreed upon in November 1998, all Senators (except for the representatives of the King) are selected and proposed by the political parties on the basis of the quota of seats they obtained in the National Assembly; as a result the political parties "have willy-nilly rights to change their Senators as needed"; noting that the political arrangement found expression in the amended Article 157 of the Constitution, which provides that for the Senate's first legislative term" … other Senators shall be appointed by the King … from among the members of the political parties having seats in the National Assembly",

Considering that while the Senate President has consistently recommended that the former Senators bring their case before a court of law as the only means of resolving the issue, the Senators concerned themselves have consistently stated that doing so would be far too risky given the lack of independence of the Cambodian judiciary and the many cases of killings and murder which have remained unpunished; moreover, they were unable to find a lawyer willing to defend them,

Considering in this respect that, in its Concluding Observations on Cambodia’s initial State report under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (CCPR/C/79/Add.108, 27 July 1999), the Human Rights Committee remained concerned that the justice system remained weak owing, inter alia, to the “susceptibility of judges to … bribery and political pressure”; furthermore, the Committee was alarmed at the failure of the Cambodian authorities to investigate fully allegations of killings by the security forces, other disappearances and deaths in custody; considering further that in his latest report on the situation of human rights in Cambodia (December 2003, E/CN.4/2004/105), the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Human Rights in Cambodia remained concerned at the lack of independence of the Cambodian judiciary and at problems with judges "who are too ready to accommodate and too weak to withstand outside interference", and at the many problems associated with impunity,

Considering that the Senate has a Committee for Human Rights and Complaints which is competent to receive complaints from individuals and others, to examine them and to mediate in their resolution by working in cooperation with various institutions or competent authorities; recalling that Senator Chhang submitted a complaint to that Committee in connection with his expulsion without ever having received a reply; considering that, according to the Senate President, that Committee has no competence in this matter because of Article 128 of the Constitution, which stipulates that "the judicial power shall cover all lawsuits including the administrative ones",

Recalling that, following the expulsion of the Senators concerned, the Senate modified its Standing Orders in order to make clear provision for the revocation of the parliamentary mandate; following an expert mission in January 2003 under the IPU's technical cooperation programme, the draft Standing Orders were revised and at present do not authorise political parties to revoke the parliamentary mandate of their members; considering, however, that owing to the political stalemate in Cambodia following the July 2003 elections, they have not as yet been adopted,

Bearing in mind Article 51 of the Constitution of Cambodia, which stipulates that "The Kingdom of Cambodia adopts a policy of liberal democracy and pluralism", and Article 41 of the Constitution, which guarantees Khmer citizens freedom of expression, press, publication, assembly and association,

  1. Thanks the President of the Senate for his constant cooperation;

  2. Reaffirms that the revocation of a parliamentarian's mandate is a serious measure which irrevocably deprives such a member of the possibility of carrying out the mandate entrusted to him/her, and that it must therefore be taken in strict compliance with the law and only on serious grounds;

  3. Notes that Article 157 of the Constitution determines the composition of the Senate during its first legislative term and contains no provision concerning the revocation of the parliamentary mandate; considers that an interpretation to the effect that this Article would grant political parties complete freedom to change Senators would hardly be compatible with a policy of liberal democracy and pluralism, as enshrined in the Constitution, besides which it would leave the door wide open to arbitrariness;

  4. Remains deeply concerned that the persons concerned were in fact expelled from their party and Parliament on account of the statements they made in the Senate during the debate on the Criminal Procedure Code bill and that, consequently, they lost their parliamentary mandate because they exercised it in the spirit of a liberal democracy, making use of their freedom of speech;

  5. Fails to understand why the Senate Commission on Human Rights and Reception of Complaints is incompetent to examine the issue in question since it is competent to examine and mediate in complaints referred to it; considers, on the contrary, that the Senate Committee is ideally placed to mediate in this case and contribute to finding a solution that would provide redress, if only moral, to the persons concerned; would appreciate receiving the observations of the parliamentary authorities in this respect;

  6. Notes that the draft Standing Orders have not as yet been adopted and would appreciate being kept informed of any developments in this respect;

  7. Requests the Secretary General to convey this decision to the President of the Senate, to the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Human Rights and Reception of Complaints, to the sources and to competent international human rights bodies;

  8. Requests the Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians to continue examining this case and report to it at its next session, to be held on the occasion of the 111th Assembly (September-October 2004), in the hope that a satisfactory settlement will have been found.

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