Torture Inspectors Disclose Sites From Dec Visit

A delegation of UN torture ex­perts conducted confidential inspections of 19 prisons and detention sites throughout Cambodia last month, according to a statement from the UN Sub-committee on Prevention of Torture.

The visit was the country’s first under the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture, which Cambodia ratified in 2007, becoming the only Southeast Asian nation to do so. The protocol provides for per­iodic inspections of detention sites by members of the UNSPT, who examine prison conditions and speak privately with inmates.

Led by Victor Manuel Rodriguez Rescia, a Costa Rican human rights expert and the chairman of the subcommittee, the four-person delegation spent a week making unannounced visits to some of Cam­bodia’s most notorious detention sites, including Kompong Cham’s CC3 prison and Phnom Penh’s Prey Speu rehabilitation center, according to a statement released shortly after the visit in December.

Inmates at Prey Speu have complained of physical and sexual abuse and a lack of adequate hygiene facilities, according to rights group Licadho.

The four also inspected three other prisons—CC1 in Phnom Penh and Battambang provincial prison and the Phnom Penh military prison­—as well as two drug rehabilitation centers in Bat­tambang, eight police stations in Phnom Penh, Pursat and Kompong Cham, and three military police stations in Battambang and Pursat.

“I’m glad that their schedule was varied, and that they didn’t just focus on Phnom Penh,” said Naly Pil­orge, director of Licadho.

Ms Pilorge also said the torture panel held a meeting with several rights groups and NGOs, including Licadho, while it was in the process of examining sites in Cambodia.

Kang Saren, director of Battam­bang provincial prison, confirmed yesterday that he received a 30-minute visit from the delegation last month.

“They wanted to see the prisoners and to research about torture and to see whether the prison building was clean and whether the prisoners were comfortable or having difficulties with hygiene,” he said.

“We never use torture with the pris­oners,” Mr Saren added.

Mak Sambath, the vice-chairman of the government’s human rights body, said yesterday that the delegation had acted independently.

“The UN wanted independence when they want to inspect the prisons, because they were afraid that the government would prepare ahead of time. The government allowed them this freedom,” he said.

“The main point from the SPT was that they requested the po­l­ice, when they arrest suspects, should not abuse them, and in prisons also,” Mr Sambath said.

The delegation also recommended sending criminals under the age of 17 to juvenile correctional facilities rather than prisons, and ex­pressed concern about conditions facing suspects in police custody, saying that they should not be detained for more than 48 hours and should receive more food while in custody.

Under the Optional Protocol, Cambodia is also required to establish a fully independent domestic anti-torture body called a National Protective Mechanism. The delegation’s final report, which will include recommendations on how to establish an independent NPM, will be issued at some point within the next year, Mr Sambath said.

(Additional reporting by Khy Sovuthy and Khuon Narim)




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