In the past year, according to the human rights group Licadho, police in Banteay Meanchey province beat a man with a wrench and hung him upside down from the ceiling during an interrogation, a young domestic servant in Phnom Penh was forced by the woman who employed her to mutilate herself with a knife and a mentally ill man was beaten to death in front of police and commune officials in Kandal province by a mob that mistook him for a thief.
“It doesn’t mean these are the only three examples,” said Kek Galabru, Licadho’s president. “It happens often.”
Licadho made public these cases of torture to mark UN International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. Tuesday is the anniversary of the UN Convention Against Torture in 1987. Cambodia ratified the Convention in 1992, but torture still exists in the country, said Kek Galabru.
“Torture is a central part of the criminal justice system in Cambodia, tolerated at all levels,” Kek Galabru said. Licadho has called for the criminal code to reflect the police’s use of torture by banning police confessions in the courts.
Om Yentieng, an adviser to Prime Minister Hun Sen, said Licadho’s allegations were either exaggerated or baseless.
He said one alleged torture in Battambang province turned out to be untrue when the government investigated, but Licadho released a report on it anyway. As for the use of confessions, Om Yentieng said that the “court is not blind, the court has never relied on the confession. The confessions that come from beatings are withdrawn. I think that Licadho should not concern itself so much about this matter.”
Khieu Kanharith, secretary of state at the Ministry of Information, noted that the government has brought in Licadho to conduct human rights classes with the police.
Last year Licadho conducted interviews with more than 2000 former prisoners, 17 percent of them said they had been tortured in custody.