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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Human rights "better" but abuses still common

Human rights "better" but abuses still common

Human rights "better" but abuses still common

DESPITE evidence of numerous cases of extra-judicial killings and other human

rights abuses, Cambodia's human rights climate last year was better than in

previous years, according to a United States report.

The State

Department's annual human rights report, in its section on Cambodia, refers to a

relatively open political atmosphere, a vigorous press and an active human

rights community.

Emerging democratic institutions such as the judiciary,

however, remained weak in 1994, it says.

The report lists a litany of

allegations of murder - some apparently politically-motivated - and other

violence, arbitrary arrest and detention last year.

It notes "sporadic

reports" of political intimidation.

The report says there was no evidence

of orchestrated violence by the government, but "credible reports" of murders by

individual members of the state security forces.

The report refers to the

December arrest of a Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) colonel for the killing

of journalist Chan Dara.

"There were several other murders committed by

as yet unidentified assailants that appeared to be politically-motivated," the

report says.

"The authorities made few arrests in connection with these

crimes, due to a combination of ineffectiveness of law enforcement and in some

cases an intentional lack of prosecutorial vigor."

Among those murdered,

or who died in suspicious circumstances, were three newspaper

editors.

The report refers to "numerous allegations" of RCAF soldiers

killing civilians last year in a variety of circumstances.

Human rights

groups had presented credible evidence that the military killed at least 35

people in the second half of 1993 at an illegal detention facility in a remote

part of Battambang province. Human rights observers believe one more prisoner

was killed there in January 1994.

The government had not conducted a

"credible investigation" into the affair, the report says.

There were

allegations of soldiers killing villagers in other parts of the country, of

prison officers shooting inmates and of local officials committing

politically-motivated killings.

Discipline within the RCAF and the police

was poor, and the security forces committed many crimes including extortion,

beatings and car theft.

Cambodia's Khmer Rouge conflict continued to see

human rights abuses by both sides.

The KR summarily executed civilians

under their control, kidnapped or killed villagers, committed massacres,

particularly of Vietnamese, and had abducted and murdered three foreigners in

1994.

The RCAF - whose effectiveness in fighting the KR was marred by

corruption, low wages, poor leadership and equipment - had allegedly executed KR

prisoners.

Human rights NGO's reported that a KR soldier was beheaded in

May after undergoing interrogation by the RCAF. His head was hung up on a wall

outside the RCAF headquarters in Battambang.

The government did not

systematically use torture, the report says, but there were credible allegations

of police and soldiers physically abusing people in their custody. Torture was

alleged to have been used at the Battambang secret prison.

Contrary to

the constitution, the government did not ensure an independent judiciary for

those charged with crimes.

Cambodia's judges were "not equipped to

operate an independent judicial system", and there were frequent and credible

charges of corruption among their ranks.

There were several cases of

people being detained for political reasons, including that of a journalist and

a NGO worker.

There were reports of political intimidation of NGOs by the

government and by provincial officials, and of journalists.

Cambodia had

an active press but Khmer journalists worked in a climate of fear throughout

last year. There was widespread suspicion that journalists who criticized

officials were being targeted for violence, possibly at the hands of the

security forces.

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