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HR 'alarming'

THE United Nations most senior human rights representative to Cambodia, Thomas Hammarberg,

has urged greater government measures to protect human rights.

"The total picture is alarming and it is time to tackle this in a more comprehensive

and thorough way than they have done so far," he said.

In a Mar 18 press conference at the end of a Cambodian visit, Hammar-berg spoke of

his strong concerns about the human rights situation.

He singled out the police, prisons and judiciary as key concerns.

There was widespread use of torture and intimidation to extract confessions from

crime suspects, he said, and poor treatment of prison inmates.

"It seems to be an understanding that beating and kicking is not so serious

and is to be expected. Inside prisons, they expect to be badly treated," said

Hammarberg.

He said the judiciary system was "thoroughly corrupt" and not independent.

"I get the impression that some of those who are in prison in this country are

there because they did not have the money to pay. Its is a bad situation."

He urged serious action to ensure the establishment of the long-delayed Constitutional

Council and the Supreme Council of Magistracy.

He also called for national elections to go ahead as scheduled next year, saying

it would be "most unfortunate" if the Constitutional requirement for the

elections was neglected.

Hammarberg said he had noticed little improvement in human rights since his last

visit to Cambodia in December, and expressed disappointment at the lack of action

over his recommendations.

"I've now come to a stage where I am disappointed about a lack of response on

certain very concrete and reasonable recommendations."

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