Human Rights Hearings Needed

[Sent to Cambodia Daily in August 2009. Not published.]

It is very thoughtful of a US Congressional commission to save the Cambodian government and National Assembly the effort of investigating and improving the human rights situation here (“Mu Sochua, Cambodia Activists To Speak at US Rights Hearing”, Cambodia Daily, August 31).

Some might say that the proposed testimony of Cambodians is hardly necessary, since the Congressional commission’s statement, as quoted in your story, makes it clear that it has already reached its conclusions.

Nevertheless, in a spirit of international cooperation, I believe the Cambodian National Assembly should similarly assist the US Congress to look into human rights in that country – particularly since Congress seems to be falling behind in this task. A National Assembly commission could hold hearings on the US government’s responsibility for:

the operation of an international network of secret prisons, with no judicial oversight;
the kidnapping of foreign citizens and sending them to foreign jails to be tortured;
the use of waterboarding, sleep deprivation and other forms of torture by the CIA, the US military and hired contractors;
the imprisonment of hundreds of people without charge or trial, in some cases for more than seven years;
the deaths of at least 108 people in US custody in Iraq and Afghanistan.

One obstacle to National Assembly hearings on these matters is that most of the people whose human rights may have been violated are not available to testify. Perhaps, while they are in Washington, the Cambodian human rights activists can lobby the US government to release those concerned (those of them who are still alive) long enough to appear before the NA commission.

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