Interior Minister Sar Kheng has ordered all prison, detention and rehabilitation center chiefs to accommodate and give full access to delegates from the U.N.’s Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture (SPT), whose five-day mission to assess the use of torture, cruelty and other inhumane treatment in Cambodia began Monday.
According to the letter, dated Friday, Mr. Kheng—who also heads the National Preventive Mechanism Committee (NPM) to curb torture, cruelty, inhumanity, persecution and punishment—said the team would “monitor and collect information at detention centers where there are those who are deprived of freedom.”
Mr. Kheng said his order was in response to a request for unlimited and unannounced access to such centers by Malcolm Evans, chairperson of the SPT, which is tasked with assessing if parties to the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture are conforming to it.
“The authorities managing those centers shall greatly welcome and shall be cooperative with delegates and shall authorize the delegates to monitor and conduct confidential interviews with those who are deprived of freedom, including culprits and convicts without any restraints,” Mr. Kheng said.
In June, the Asian Human Rights Commission said torture in Cambodia’s prison system was “systematic” and cited figures from rights group Adhoc, which recorded at least 141 cases of torture in police custody since 2010. Kuy Bunsorn, director-general of the General Department of Prisons, said he met Monday with the delegates, who are following up on a 2009 visit to see whether prisoners’ situations have improved.
Prison directors were informed of the visit during a workshop held last week, during which the strategic plan for the running of prisons was discussed.
In a statement released on Sunday, the U.N. said the SPT would present its findings to authorities when its mission comes to an end.
“For the SPT, the key to preventing torture and ill-treatment lies in building constructive relations with the State concerned, and its guiding principles are cooperation and confidentiality,” the statement says.
It said the U.N. delegates would also discuss how the government’s NPM can conform with the optional protocol.
(Additional reporting by Lauren Crothers)