Local rights group Licadho is concerned for the welfare of three inmates at Kandal provincial prison who were possibly tortured after being recaptured following a failed escape attempt on the night of Aug 22, the organization said September 14.
Chheav Hourlay, a prison researcher with Licadho, said he witnessed one of the prisoners, whose legs were shackled with chains, being carried out of a cell by two other prisoners on Aug 23. Inquiring further, Chheav Hourlay was informed that the prisoner in chains, who looked sick and unable to walk alone, had been part of the escape bid, which involved sawing through bars on a prison window.
“His face looked pale and his legs were straight and he could not bend them to walk,” he said.
“[I] suspect that he was beaten,” he added.
A request sent to the provincial court’s chief prosecutor, Huot Vuthy, to allow Licadho staff visit the three prisoners—who are all in pre-trial detention—was referred on Sept 10 to the court’s director, Khiev Sameth, who has not yet responded.
Kandal Prison Director Muong Sam Ath denied the three men were ill-treated or were currently sick. The only punishment they received was being denied visitors for a few months, including visits from human rights workers, he said.
“If we torture them it is wrong,” he said. “They are not sick, I also have a medical person…. I am responsible,” he added.
Licadho Coordinator Sao Chanthorm said she suspects the prisoners, identified as Nguon Rithy, 23, a suspected murder, Lay Narith, 24, a suspected robber and Prak Sitha, 19, who is charged with extortion, were beaten after being recaptured.
“I think this is a torture case. The prison rejected our request to offer treatment,” she said, adding that the prison’s director should not deny a request to meet inmates.
“The people who tried to escape should not be punished by beating them up,” she added.
Contacted September 14, Khiev Sameth said he had no authority to allow a prison visit by Licadho and had passed the request back to Chief Prosecutor Huot Vuthy, who should decide. Huot Vuthy could not be contacted for comment.