Minor Jailed Without Trial for Two Years

A 16-year-old boy arrived at Phnom Penh Municipal Court for sen­tencing on Tuesday, only to be sent back, untried, to the pri­­son where he said he has been imprisoned for more than two years, des­­pite a maximum pre-trial de­ten­tion period of two months.

The boy was one of 16 suspects re­turned to Prey Sar prison without trial because no defense law­yers were present, officials said.

Hong Kimheang, 38, accused of human trafficking, told a re­port­er that seven of the 16 suspects, including herself, had been de­tained for more than six months. At least two were minors.

According to Untac law, the maximum pre-trial detention period for adults is six months. Mi­nors 13 years to 18 years of age can only be detained for two months.

Sok Sam Oeun, executive di­rec­tor of the Cambodian De­fend­ers Project, said that illegal detentions often occur when the suspect’s right of counsel is abused by authorities.

“We must make sure that everyone has access to counsel,” he said.

Horn Sophea Vuth, the 16-year-old, said he was arrested in August 2002. Police accused him of robbery, a charge he has  denied.

“Police beat me to thumbprint their paper,” he said, referring to a written confession.

Uncertain of whether his parents had been informed of his in­car­ceration, Horn Sophea Vuth said he has not been visited in prison by family or by a lawyer.

Having a lawyer, however, doesn’t ensure a timely sentencing, said Muong Akrun, chief of the Bar Association’s department of legal representation for children in need of special protection. He said that one of his colleagues has seven clients, all young boys, who have been detained beyond the legal period.

Kek Galabru, president of rights group Licadho, on Tues­day condemned the illegal detention of minors, and demanded they be released. “This detention is a violation of the law and of children’s rights,” she said. Licadho will investigate the Horn Sophea Vuth’s case, she added.

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