UN Says 187 Illegally Held Without Trial

Almost 200 suspects have been de­tained in Cambodia’s prisons for more than six months without trials due to the country’s weak ju­dicial system, a UN official said on Wednesday.

By law, authorities can detain a suspect without trial for four months, and in certain cases can hold them behind bars for an ad­ditional two months without trial.

However, 187 suspects—most of them in Phnom Penh’s Prey Sar prison—are being detained without trials well past the six-month period, according to statistics from the human rights group Licadho.

There are more than 5,100 in­mates serving time in Cambodia’s prisons.

“The courts move very slowly,” said one UN official on Wednes­day. “If the courts followed the laws regarding pre-trial detentions, they would not have a vast majority of prisoners in illegal pre-trial detention.”

The problem is compounded because the courts often detain suspects before a trial even if they are accused of minor crimes, re­gardless of their circumstance, the UN official said.

Nop Sophon, deputy director of Phnom Penh Municipal Court, de­fended the courts, saying that they often keep suspects past the de­tention period because the courts need extra time to gather evidence. Nop Sophon also blamed defense attorneys who push the courts to delay trials.

In a recent letter to Licadho, the Supreme Council of Magistracy, the lead judicial body in the country, said that there were 160 suspects being detained past their six-month detention period.

The letter, dated Oct 14 and signed by Supreme Council of Magistracy Secretary Rile Mo­ven, said the courts sometimes do not send trial verdicts to the prisons when the detainee is found innocent and blamed the prison officials for not updating their lists of detainees who have served more than six months without a trial.

UN human rights envoy Peter Leuprecht is scheduled to meet with prison officials on Friday to further discuss this and other prison-related issues.

 

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