CAMBODIA: Statement on International Day in Support of Victims of Torture on 26 June 2012
Press Release -- International Day in Support of Victims of Torture
Phnom Penh, June 26, 2012
Seven leading civil society organizations will mark the United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture with an event at the Sunway Hotel on June 26. Rehabilitation is the theme for this year's 26 June campaign.
Organizers have invited three Cambodian torture survivors to share about the lasting after-effects of torture on their lives. The event is being organized by the Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee (CHRAC), Cambodian Defenders Project (CDP), Cambodian Human Rights & Development Association (ADHOC), Transcultural Psychosocial Organization Cambodia (TPO), the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO), United Kingdom-based REDRESS, and Hong Kong-based Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC).
The United Nations' Convention against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, known as CAT, was adopted by the UN General Assembly in December 1984 and came into force on June 26, 1987. That date is now recognized as International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. Cambodia ratified the convention in 1992, but torture remains flagrant and widespread.
"We recognize and praise the important strides the world has made toward eradicating torture and the Cambodian government ratified the United Nations' Convention against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and Optional protocol to CAT (OPCAT)," said Mr. Thun Saray (Chairman of CHRAC and President of ADHOC). "Yet this day also brings into sharp focus the lack of progress toward this goal in Cambodia."
Torture in Cambodia most often occurs in police custody. During the first 24 hours of detention, suspects are not permitted to see a lawyer and often face inhuman conditions including torture for confessions, shackling for extended periods of time, and intimidation or threats against relatives. LICADHO reported 135 cases and ADHOC reported 76 cases of torture in police custody which were documented by researchers during 2011. The most common forms of abuse were physical beatings and electric shocks.
There are currently no mechanisms for monitoring conditions inside police interrogation, and police enjoy widespread immunity from prosecution. Prisons and pretrial detention centers are monitored by civil society groups, but periodic inspections do not necessarily reveal everything that occurs in closed facilities.
Human rights organizations have also documented all manner of depravity at Cambodia's forced drug treatment centers and so-called "social affairs centers", including beatings, killings and rape. Although ostensibly "voluntary," most detainees in these centers are not permitted to leave.
"The problem of torture in Cambodia is compounded by the inability or unwillingness of the judiciary to prosecute torture crimes," said Dr. Pung Chhiv Kek (President of LICADHO). "Most victims and witnesses fear repercussions, so they do not seek legal recourse. And the danger of repercussions is very indeed real."
The last prosecution of a government official for a torture-related crime occurred in 2006.
The recent use of military and police personnel by private companies in land disputes marks another low point. In the past two months, two civilians have been shot dead in disputes over land and natural resources. No one has been held accountable for their deaths.
Torture often has devastating implications for the individual survivor as well as for immediate families, communities and for society at large. Rebuilding the life of someone whose physical and psychological integrity has been destroyed takes time and demands long-term medical, psychological and social support. Unfortunately, the psychosocial needs and rights to rehabilitation and redress of torture survivors are not addressed in Cambodia, as the capacity of national health agencies in providing effective treatment is very limited.
We, the undersigned civil society organizations, urge the Cambodian Government to uphold the standards put forth by the United Nations Committee against Torture (CAT) and work towards ending the system of impunity for those who commit crimes violating the Convention.
We also call upon the Cambodian Government to (i) immediately cease the use of torture in police custody, such as shackling and beating the accused; (ii) end the practice of incommunicado detention for the first 24 hours of police custody – all detainees must be guaranteed the right to have immediate access to a lawyer while in police custody; (iii) create clear, transparent laws defining and criminalizing torture and setting a precedent for how cases will be prosecuted in the judiciary; (iv) investigate cases of torture and provide mechanisms for victims and witnesses to legally and safely lodge their grievances; (v) establish an independent body to fairly investigate allegations of torture, and establish an independent National Preventive Mechanism (NPA) and (vi) to address the right of torture victims to full rehabilitation by increasing the capacity of national health agencies in providing specialized rehabilitation services based on recommended international standards.
For more information, please contact:
Mr. Thun Saray, Chairman of CHRAC/President of ADHOC - Tel: 016 44 00 44
Mr. Sok Sam Oeun, Executive Director of CDP - Tel: 012 901 199
Dr. Pung Chhiv Kek, President of LICADHO - Tel: 012 802 506
Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee (CHRAC)
Address: # 9E0, St. 330, Sangkat Boeung Keng Kong III,
Khan. Chamcar Morn, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Tel/Fax: (855) 23 218 759, Tel: (855) 23 301 415, 305 609
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com