Under Fire, Official Defends Torture Stand

National Police Deputy Direc­tor-General Sau Phan stood by his assertion that torture is sometimes necessary to extract confessions from criminals, as human rights groups and the UN Special Representative of the Secretary General for Human rights called Wednesday for him to retract his comments or resign.

“I have told police not to torture suspects but, only when it is necessary, police have to do it be­cause they want to arrest other suspects immediately in order to stop their activities,” Sau Phan said.

In a written statement, UN Special Representative Peter Leup­recht condemned Sau Phan’s comments Sunday def­end­ing strong-armed interrogation tactics in certain cases.

“There is no justification for torture,” Leuprecht said in the statement. “It is expressly prohibited in all circumstances in international law and by Cambodia’s own Constitution. Any policeman who thinks these or other laws do not apply clearly has no place in an institution of law enforcement.”

In certain cases, however, violent tactics are needed, Sau Phan said. He accused human rights groups of protecting criminals.

“Our policemen have been shot dead by robbers and bad people when they were protecting people’s security, so why do hu­man rights organizations only help the robbers?” he said.

Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak, however, called torture “illegal” Wednesday and said it “is not included in the policy of police.”

He did not know if the Ministry would reprimand Sau Phan for his remarks. Khieu Sopheak said he thought that torture was used very rarely.

According to reports from victims, torture by police is widespread, human rights groups said.

“When they arrest the suspect or perpetrator they often beat him, sometimes until they die in police custody,” said Chan So­veth, a program officer for local human rights group Adhoc.

Jason Barber, a consultant for rights group Licadho’s project against torture, said cases of torture are likely under-reported because independent monitors often don’t have free access to police stations.

He also emphasized that violent interrogation tactics are not effective in gathering evidence.

“The victim will say whatever the torturer wants them to say,” he said Wednesday. Victims also frequently report that police have tortured them to extort money, he said.

Khieu Sopheak asked organizations to submit precise details about cases of alleged torture so that the ministry can investigate.

He said the government would not create an independent body to investigate complaints against law enforcement as suggested by Leuprecht, who cited in his statement the recommendations of a 2003 report by the UN Com­mit­tee against Torture.

Khieu Sopheak said such a body is not necessary because the ministry already does a good job of investigating such complaints.


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