Draft Law Outlines Strict Penalties For Acid Attacks

Perpetrators to face between 20 years and life in jail

Perpetrators and accomplices to acid crimes will be sentenced to between 20 years and life in prison, and those found in possession of acid without a recognized license issued by the government will face sentences up to a five years, according to a working draft of the law.

The draft law is still being reviewed by a committee within the Interior Ministry and could be subject to further changes before it is sent to the Council of Ministers.

“In cases where the victim is disabled for life, the criminal has to serve a 20-year to 30-year jail term or a life sentence” depending on the gravity of the wounds inflicted, according to the draft, a copy of which was obtained yesterday.

The draft comprising six chapters and 27 articles also says that acid attacks resulting in the death of a victim will be punished by a life sentence. Those found guilty of colluding with or assisting acid throwers will be subject to the same penalties.

The first glimpse of the law comes after a drafting process that begun in February, reversing authorities’ previous decision not to enact any special penalty for acid crime despite the highly publicized history of acid attacks in Cambodia.

Lieutenant General Khieu Sopheak said yesterday that he had not seen the draft law on acid but that is was likely to have further changes made to it.

“The draft law must go through the Council of Ministers, and it has to decide on which articles to remove and what points to add,” he said.

The draft law also includes provisions for cases were people are judged to have injured victims by accident. Those found guilty of accidentally burning somebody with acid and leaving them disabled for life will face maximum penalties of four years in jail and fines of up to 15 million riel, or about $3,750.

In cases where the victim dies from an accidental burning the sentence will be increased to between three and five years in jail and a fine of 20 million to 30 million riel.

Beyond punishments for those who attack people with acid, the draft law also contains detailed provisions on the use, management and transportation of acid.

Those in the possession of any kind of acid—including sulfuric, hydrochloric or nitric—must have licenses issued by the government proving that it is being used in order “to serve economic or social interests.”

Those permitted to transport acid must also have a letter of permission from the government. Those who wish to legally possess acid have six months to apply for a license once the law has been promulgated.

Anyone found in possession of unlicensed acid can be fined up to 1.5 million riel, or $375, if the amount is less than 500 ml. Larger quantities will incur penalties of between one and five years in jail and fines of up to 10 million riel, or $2,500, according to the draft law.

The draft would also require the Health Ministry to cover all medical bills and the Bar Association to cover all court fees for victims of acid attacks. Provisions are also made for the Social Affairs Ministry to provide rehabilitation treatment for victims.

Ziad Samman, coordinator for the Phnom Penh-based Cambodian Acid Survivors Charity, said that without having seen any legislation he was nevertheless pleased to hear the draft law addressed a broader range of matters than just punishments for perpetrators of acid attacks and the management of acid in Cambodia.

“It sounds really positive so far. All encompassing legislation is exactly what we need,” he said. “Any legislation that holds all parties accountable should act as a deterrent for people involved in these crimes.”

Mr Samman added, however, that it was important to have a legal requirement on acid being sold and transported inside safe containers with clear labels. Such a provision does not appear to exist as part of the law yet.

Interior Ministry Secretary of State Teng Savong, who chairs the committee drafting the law on acid, said on Tuesday that the Interior Ministry would submit the draft law to the Council of Ministers by the end of the year.

According to CASC there have been a total of 18 recorded attacks, four accidents and one suicide attempt with acid in Cambodia between January and October, inflicting burns on 39 people.

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