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.