Sar Kheng Announces Month of Surprise Prison Inspections

The government’s National Preventative Mechanism Committee has said that it will perform unannounced inspections of prisons and detention centers nationwide over a one-month period in an effort to stamp out mistreatment of inmates and others deprived of their freedoms by the state.

In a letter dated Friday and obtained Tuesday, Interior Minister Sar Kheng notified prison officials to expect unannounced visits from the committee—a body tasked with curbing torture.

“The members of the National Preventative Mechanism Committee and members of the committee’s secretariat will perform inspections and interviews without notice at places of detention, places of temporary revocation of basic freedoms, correctional centers, prisons, immigration detention centers, rehabilitation centers and drug treatment centers,” Mr. Kheng wrote.

The letter does not say when the surprise inspections will begin, but Chou Bun Eng, a secretary of state at the Interior Ministry, said Tuesday that the random checks would likely wrap up in a month.

“The purpose is to strengthen law enforcement in prisons,” she said. “We want to know if law enforcement is effective, and what are the challenges?”

Ms. Bun Eng would not say what would happen if the committee finds that prisoners have been mistreated, but said that she doubted it would. “There is no torture in prisons; now the prisons seem like hotels,” she said.

Am Sam Ath, technical supervisor for rights group Licadho, said he doubted that a planned month of prison inspections would do much to stop police and other authorities from mistreating detainees.

“We can see that torture is still happening at temporary detention posts, for example, the beating up of perpetrators and forcing them to give answers,” he said.

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