ADHOC, the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association, has released its first
annual survey of the country's human rights situation. The document, Human Rights
Report 2001, is also the first comprehensive survey of human rights in Cambodia compiled
by a local NGO.
ADHOC investigated 375 cases of domestic violence last year, and stated that 90 percent
were attacks on women by men. The organization concluded that the violence associated
with the civil war and the 1975-79 Democratic Kampuchea regime was predominantly
responsible. ADHOC also noted the importance of poverty and lack of education as
Thun Saray, president of ADHOC, told the Post that "people were used to using
violence at that time, and violence entered into their spirits".
"As for poverty," Saray added, "sometimes people use violence because
they are struck with the difficulties of their lives."
The report quoted research by the Ministry of Planning showing one in four women
between 15 and 45 are abused by their husbands. ADHOC also reported that three-quarters
of rape victims in Cambodia last year were under 17. Saray said that many of the
rapes against girls and young women - which are increasing though the overall rate
is not - were from fears of contracting HIV.
"Also, some of it is due to people seeing sexual images on videos in cafes in
rural areas," he said. One reason the overall rape rate had not improved was
because financial compensation for rape victims, a common punishment in Cambodia,
was ineffective as a way of dealing with the crime.
"The main factor in the level of rapes is that compensation [does not work]
and powerful people go unpunished. Also, the authorities often do not have the means
to find the perpetrators," he said.
Of judicial reform, a key issue recognized by donors, ADHOC said: "The year
2001 does not present any significant progress within the judiciary." Cambodia's
judiciary is commonly regarded as lacking independence from those with political
influence and money.
ADHOC noted the potential importance of the formation of the Judicial Reform Council
in 2000, but regretted that "no concrete action has [since] been achieved".
It also expressed concerns about changes to the Law on Criminal Procedure, which
is currently awaiting promulgation by the King.
The report also focused on political violence. Last year saw 12 political killings
and 100 cases of politically motivated intimidation. Although the rate was sharply
higher than the previous year, it acknowledged that the numbers of politically related
cases were much lower than in 1998, the year of the last national election.
The report singled out six events as "important and remarkable". These
were the commune council elections, held early February 2002; progress towards the
Khmer Rouge tribunal law, which is currently in limbo after the UN announced it was
withdrawing from the process; the trials of alleged members of the Cambodian Freedom
Fighters; the Prime Minister's instruction closing karaoke bars in November; Cambodia's
ratification of the Rome Statute that seeks to establish an International Criminal
Court; and the case of 1,000 Montagnard refugees from Vietnam currently in refugee
camps in the country's northeast.
ADHOC noted a one-third decrease in extra-judicial killings: 64 people were killed
by mobs or law-enforcement authorities in 2001, for which it blamed shortcomings
in law enforcement.
"[ADHOC] will persevere to improve and enhance our next report by adding more
important aspects of the human rights situation, which will evolve throughout the
next year," said Saray.