In one case, the judge asked a six-year-old girl if she experienced “thrill and hurt” during the sexual abuse committed on her by a 19-year-old man.
In another, the lawyer for the accused questioned an 11-year-old Cambodian girl in what was “perceived to be a loud, possibly intimidating voice.”
These examples of insensitivity, if not misconduct, were presented in a report released yesterday by the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, which said courts needed to better protect victim rights in sexual exploitation and human trafficking trials.
The human rights group concluded that “the courts have little understanding of issues relating to juvenile victim protection.”
“There are inadequate measures in place to protect the victim’s privacy both before and during trial,” it said.
In 11 of 15 monitored trials, according to the report, the victim’s lawyer failed to request that the child’s identity be kept confidential, which is “essential due to the explicit nature of the charge and/or the safety of the victim.”
The report raised concerns about trial delays, with postponements in five of the monitored trials. It also highlighted as improper the retroactive use of the 2008 trafficking law to prosecute crimes committed before the law came into force.
On a positive note, CCHR pointed to “the proportion of female lawyers representing victims,” with female lawyers representing the overwhelmingly female victims in 11 of the 15 trials.
The report was based on 15 trials monitored from August to December last year in which the accused were charged under the 2008 trafficking law.
Ith Rady, undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Justice, said court officials were still being trained in the application of the relatively new trafficking law.
“I do not know where they spread the identity of the victim,” he said when told of the report’s findings. “The identity of the victim needs to be kept confidential in order to maintain security, the position of the victim and to make sure the victim does not feel shy.”
Mr Rady said the courts have tried about 40 cases under the trafficking law so far this year.
Samleang Seila, country director for anti-pedophile NGO Action Pour Les Enfants, echoed the concerns raised in CCHR’s report.
“There are a large number of cases concerning foreign pedophiles where the trial is delayed without good reasons,” he said.
In some cases, the courts “put victims in contact with the suspect during the questioning,” he added.
(Additional reporting by Cheng Sokhorng)