A child rights NGO is urging the Supreme Council of Magistracy to investigate and “strictly punish” a Phnom Penh judge, accusing him of wrongfully acquitting two alleged foreign pedophiles.
Action Pour Les Enfants filed two complaints Thursday against Kong Sarith, a presiding judge at Phnom Penh Municipal Court, for acquitting Canadian Orville Mader and Dutchman Rene Paul Martin Aubel on July 16 and Aug 19 respectively, APLE said.
The judge’s decision to acquit the two men “is very unfair for the kids and their families,” APLE wrote in their complaints.
Mader and Aubel were arrested and charged with sexually abusing under-age boys earlier in the year.
Contacted by telephone Friday, Kong Sarith defended his decision to acquit the two men.
“They are not guilty,” Kong Sarith said. “What I did is in accordance with the law.”
In a copy of an e-mail written by Mader before his Feb 12 arrest, to a friend in Vietnam named Chris, Mader details his sexual encounters with underage boys in Phnom Penh.
The e-mail was obtained from APLE Friday, and its authenticity has been verified by Interior Ministry officials, according to signatures on the copy.
“Most of the boys are homeless and range in age from 10 to 14,” Mader wrote. “I am having a wonderful time with them sexually.”
Mader wrote that he paid the boys between $1 and $2 for their services. Some of the boys were beggars, others shoe-shine boys, and some sniffed glue.
“One day I had seven boys staying with me,” he wrote.
Mader also refers to several visits to the Svay Pak brothel village on the outskirts of Phnom Penh and recalls encounters with boys in Ho Chi Minh City.
The boys in Ho Chi Minh City “were either there just for the money or weren’t very interested in the sexual part,” he wrote.
Police at the Ministry of Interior went through Mader’s e-mail and “certified clearly that Mader is a pedophile,” Mey Vannak, APLE project coordinator said in a Friday interview. “But it was denied by the judge.”
Mader appears to have left Cambodia after his acquittal, said Darnaudet Thierry, APLE president.
“We don’t see [Mader] any more. We think maybe he has gone back to Japan or Vietnam,” Thierry said in an interview Friday. “We are trying to find him, but it’s not easy, of course.”
The other suspect, Aubel, a tall man with a handlebar mustache, gained notoriety after his arrest due to a furry hat shaped like a lion’s head that he wore in public to attract children.
Police raided Aubel’s Phnom Penh guest house room April 1. Copies of photos seized from his suitcase seen Friday show Aubel fondling pre-pubescent naked boys.
Other photos show underage boys naked in bed with Aubel, as well as naked underage boys showering and touching their genitalia.
Kong Sarith had access to both Mader’s e-mail and Aubel’s photographs before he acquitted the pair, Mey Vannak said.
“This evidence was in the case file, so [Kong Sarith] had to see it before he made the judgment,” Mey Vannak said. “We believe he saw all of this evidence.”
Aubel performed oral sex on most of the boys, according to their testimonies, Mey Vannak said.
Aubel told police he had visited Cambodia nine times, and that he had had oral sex with underage boys on each visit, according to APLE’s complaint.
Despite Aubel’s acquittal, he remains in Prey Sar prison, because a vice-prosecutor at the court, Sok Roeun, protested Kong Sarith’s decision and took action to block his release, APLE said.
Donica Pottie, Canada’s new ambassador, said in a telephone interview Monday that she was not in a position to comment on the specifics of Mader’s case, nor reveal his whereabouts if she were aware of them.
“One of the problems is that [foreign pedophiles] go quickly into a country and then leave,” Pottie said. Canadian nationals can be prosecuted at home for sexual abuse of children in other countries, she added.
The Netherlands Embassy in Bangkok did not immediately respond to e-mailed queries regarding Aubel’s case Monday.
Nguyen Thanh Duc, press attache at the Vietnamese Embassy, said by telephone Monday that he was unaware of the details of Mader’s case, but voiced concern that Mader may have committed sex crimes in Vietnam.
“Our government is committed to protect our children,” Nguyen Thanh Duc said. “We have regulations in the law for this crime. If [Vietnam has] concrete evidence,” it does not release pedophiles.
East West Management Institute provided technical assistance to APLE in making the complaints, Dianne Post, legal adviser for EWMI’s Human Rights in Cambodia Project, said in a telephone interview Monday.
EWMI will be closely examining future decisions made in court, and posting critical analysis of verdicts on the Internet.
“We know there is a serious problem of abuse of children in Cambodia, and many of the perpetrators are not being held accountable. We have to find a way to do it,” Post said.
“It is the job of the Supreme Council of Magistracy to examine the behavior of judges. We hope they will examine the two cases and make the appropriate decision,” she added.
The Supreme Council of Magistracy received APLE’s complaints Thursday, according to documents obtained from APLE. Repeated calls to Council members Ty Neng and Real Muon were unsuccessful Monday.
The general public has little faith in Cambodian courts, Sok Sam Oeun, Cambodian Defenders Project executive director, said by telephone Monday.
“The common view is that we don’t believe judges,” due to a widely held perception that bribes are paid to ensure results, Sok Sam Oeun said. “No one trusts the courts.”
When reached by telephone on Friday, Judge Kong Sarith said he had not been informed of APLE’s complaints. The evidence against Mader and Aubel did not merit a conviction, he added.
“Just [on this] evidence, their lawyers also said, the suspects could not be punished,” Kong Sarith said. “There must be more evidence.”
Calls made to Kong Sarith were unsuccessful Monday.