UN Blames Police, Courts for Mob Justice

The number of suspected thieves and robbers killed or in­jured by mobs has increased steadily over the past six months due to an absence of police intervention and a lack of faith in the judiciary, a report by the UN hu­man rights of­fice stated.

The report—a briefing paper released by UN human rights en­voy Peter Leuprecht Monday—was issued the same day that the human rights group Adhoc strongly criticized a Cambodian court for stalling an investigation in a rape case, which eventually led the victim’s father to seek vigilante justice.

The UN report “is prompted by an increase in incidents of mob violence after a year-and-a-half de­cline and as the country gears up for a general election last year,” it states. “In the six months to the end of May 2002, angry crowds murdered and maimed on eleven occasions, compared with only three such incidents in the previous six months.”

In some cases, the UN blamed authorities for the mob violence.

“Members of Cambodia’s po­lice forces frequently fail to intervene, and have been directly com­plicit on several occasions,” the report states.

Police and officials, however, disputed the UN’s findings.

“We reject the UN human rights report—we ban extrajudicial killings,” said Suon Chenngly, the municipal police chief.

“Our country has laws, and our policemen arrest the offenders and we send them to court. We never allow a mob to grab an of­fender and kill him,” he said.

Despite this, the UN reported at least 10 cases of “complacency” or “complicity” in cases of mob vio­lence.

In one July 2001 incident, the report states that police in Phnom Penh arrested two youths suspected of robbery.

After the suspects were brought to the police station, the po­lice handcuffed one of them and brought him back to the scene of the arrest. The police then allegedly handed the suspect back over to the crowd, which beat him to death, according to the report.

While the report says the causes for killings like this one are “complex and need to be better understood,” widespread distrust of Cambodia’s court system is largely blamed for the tendency toward mob justice.

“Cambodia’s mob killings problem has over the years been ascribed to the impunity that arises out of criminal and judicial systems that do not function,” the re­port states.

A similar frustration with the judiciary caused the father of a 9-year-old rape victim to try to kill his daughter’s alleged rapist, Ad­hoc reported Monday.

According to Adhoc investigator Koy Phalla, the provincial court in Kompong Speu never is­sued an arrest warrant for the man suspected of raping the girl in March.

The victim’s father allegedly sought justice for himself and his family on June 6 by arming himself with an AK-47 assault rifle and trying to kill the suspected rapist in his house.

Vet Yoeun, deputy chief prosecutor of Kompong Speu, said Mon­day that he issued an arrest warrant at least two months ago. He ac­cused lo­cal po­lice of failing to detain the suspect.

Chea Vuth, Kompong Speu de­puty police chief, defended the police, denying Monday that the courts had issued a warrant.

This kind of confusion makes it harder to hold anyone ac­count­able for acts of vigilante justice, be it a killing by an angry mob or an act of revenge carried out by one person, the UN report states.

“It provides room for blame passing between the courts and police over who is responsible for this failure of law enforcement,” the report states.

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