Human rights bread seller

[Published in the Phnom Penh Post in May 2000.]

Anette Marcher’s article “Latest proposal criticized” (Post, April 28-May 11) describes Brad Adams’ opposition to a US proposal for a panel of judges to settle possible disagreements between co-prosecutors in a trial of Khmer Rouge leaders. The article indicates that Adams’ opinion on this matter is important because he is a “human rights lawyer”.
I asked our bread seller whether he is in favour of human rights, and he said he assuredly is. If he should have the misfortune to be run over by a truck, will the Post’s report of the accident refer to him as a “human rights bread seller”?
Or, to take another example, has the Post inquired of the prime minister whether he favours human rights? If he answers in the affirmative, will the Post henceforth refer to “human rights Prime Minister Hun Sen”?
My point is that “human rights lawyer” is not a moral qualification, but a job description. It denotes a lawyer who specialises in human rights law, in the same way that “criminal lawyer” denotes a legal specialty, not support for criminality.
However, Adams’ quoted remarks do not concern his legal expertise, but only his political opinion that the Cambodian government will successfully try to corrupt the operations of the judges’ panel.
Adams is of course entitled to his opinion, but I fail to see why it should receive any more space in the Post than the opinions of our human rights bread seller or any other person.

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