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Investigate torture claims more vigorously, UN urges

Allegations of torture and ill treatment at prisons and drug detention centres should be investigated more vigorously and better access to such facilities permitted in order to monitor conditions for detainees, a United Nations representative said in the capital yesterday.

At a conference on the UN Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture  –  which was ratified by Cambodia in 2007 – deputy representative at the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Cambodia, James Heenan, said  there should be an independent body to monitor “places of detention”.

“I think we need to accelerate the process, so that more visits are taking place and more cases of allegations of torture are being addressed,” he said.

“When we talk about places of detention, we talk about… not just formal prisons but also drug detention centres [and] social affairs centres. These are places that are often left out of our thinking.”

Nuth Sa An, secretary of state at the Interior Ministry, said recently approved laws regulating prisons and the use of acid would assist in efforts to eliminate torture. “The government is making an effort to eliminate torture at prisons and drug detention centres,” he said.

The prison law approved by the National Assembly earlier this month includes a provision banning torture in the formal prison system, which is regulated by the Interior Ministry.

Concerns have been voiced that a draft drug law set to be debated at the National Assembly today could exacerbate abuse at drug treatment centres.

Chan Soveth, head of monitoring for rights group Adhoc, said the group had received nearly 75 complaints related to torture inside and outside of prisons since the beginning of last year.

Kuy Bunsan, director-general of the general department of prisons at the Ministry of Interior, and Khieu Samon, acting director of the anti-drug department, could not be reached .

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