Access to Justice for Nation’s Children Among World’s Worst

A report released today by glo­bal advocacy group Child Rights In­­­­ternational Network (CRIN) ranked Cambodia 166 out of 197 coun­tries for the effectiveness of its courts in protecting children.

The report, titled “Rights, Rem­edies and Representation,” asked NGO workers and legal experts in each country to score four factors: the ability of children to file law­suits, the availability of legal aid re­sources, procedures for taking le­gal action and the application of in­ter­national laws pertaining to child rights.

“Minors do not have the capacity to appear before the courts with­out a representative and while children in conflict with the law have a right to legal assistance legal aid is not used often,” CRIN said in a press re­lease is­sued on Sunday in advance of the full report.

“There are no special children’s courts in Cambodia and children are often sentenced as adults and de­­tained in adult prisons,” said the press release.

Rather than looking at the laws of each state, CRIN director Ve­ron­ica Yates noted that the report instead fo­­cuses on how countries practically ensure the rights of children through the justice system.

“It is hard to ignore how many countries with deplorable human rights records are on the lower end of the ranking for children’s access to justice,” she is quoted as saying.

Mom Sokchar, program manager at local NGO Legal Support for Children and Women, described cur­rent government funding directed at legal services for children as “very limited.”

“I think that access to legal aid services is possibly one of the main issues that may have given Cam­bo­dia the ranking it received,” he said.

Concerning the issue of children be­ing sent to adult prisons, Mr. Sok­­char stressed the importance of re­habilitation to reduce the chance of reoffending.

“If the government have a problem, they should rehabilitate rather than criminalize them,” he said.

Justice Ministry spokesman Chin Malin said he could not com­ment on the report.

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