Civil society organizations marked Saturday’s International Day in Support of Victims of Torture with renewed calls for the government to take further action to meet its obligations under the UN Convention Against Torture.
The Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee, which represents more than 20 NGOs, released a statement on Friday urging the government to ensure that Cambodia’s legal framework matches its international obligations for dealing with cases of torture.
“We now call on the government […] to ensure that torture is recognized as a crime in Cambodia” in accordance with definition set out in the torture convention, the statement said.
Cambodia acceded in 1992 to the convention, which defines torture as any act by a government official causing pain or suffering for the purposes of punishment or coercion or to extract information.
As the government also ratified the so-called “Optional Protocol” to the torture convention in 2007, CHRAC on Saturday also called the government to fulfill provisions under the protocol by establishing an independent body to investigate complaints of torture.
By sub-decree, the government in August created such a body, called a National Preventive Mechanism–made up entirely of government officials. UN officials say that it the body is of dubious independence and does not meet all of the requirements in the protocol.
Mak Sambath, the vice-chairman of the government’s human rights body, said yesterday that the government was working steadily towards creating a body that could be considered independent.
“We need time to draft the law…with our partners, civil society and other relative agencies,” Mr Sambath said by telephone.
“We have to make [a law to create the new body] to comply with the UN convention and the national institution. We need more time and we need to hold more workshops concerning this problem.”
Mathieu Pellerin, a consultant for the human rights organization Licadho, said yesterday that it was unfortunate that Cambodia had not yet created an independent body to monitor torture cases.
“The only way to have a lasting impact on torture is for perpetrators of such acts to face prosecution, which is deeply needed in [Cambodia] to overcome the impunity given to many,” Mr Pellerin said.