Rights Group Says Suspects May Have Been Tortured

A UN-affiliated legal and human rights watchdog has written to the government expressing concern that suspects detained for the July killing of a Stung Treng province rights activist may have been tortured into confessing to the crime.

Seng Sarorn, an activist for local rights group Adhoc and a CPP candidate in April’s commune election, was killed by a single gunshot wound in his Sesan district home July 4.

In an Aug 10 letter, Legal Rights Watch Canada, an NGO with special consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the UN, states that it is “gravely concerned about reports of torture of persons presently held in custody.”

According to the LRWC letter, one suspect, Pang Hut, who implicated a second man, Fy Vuthy, in the killing, had claimed he was violently beaten while in custody and was afraid the authorities might kill him.

The letter also states that sources indicated “Pang Hut’s mental health condition is uncertain.”

The letter, which was signed by LRWC Executive Director Gail Davidson, urged the government to “insist that authorities conduct thorough and impartial investigations into the death of Seng Sarorn” and “put a stop to all harassment and intimidation of human rights defenders in Cambodia.”

Police in Stung Treng province denied the allegations by LRWC. “[Pang Hut] confessed himself,” said provincial deputy police chief Ek Sivandorn, who denied the torture allegations and called the NGO’s letter “absurd.”

Pang Hut was not mentally ill, Ek Sivandorn added, but could be stressed due to personal problems.

Adhoc President Thun Saray said he doubted very much that the real perpetrators of the killing were yet in custody and urged the government to make more effort with the case. “This has not been a serious investigation,” he said,

Orng Ry, Adhoc’s investigator for Stung Treng, said Adhoc has hired lawyers for both men.

Interior Ministry spokesman Lieutenant General Khieu So­pheak said he could not comment on the allegations made by the LRCW as he had not yet seen the statement.

Information Minister and government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said Monday he was too busy to speak to a reporter.


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