Search

Search form

Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Justice overlooks juvenile offenders

Justice overlooks juvenile offenders

Justice overlooks juvenile offenders

While the number of juvenile offenders in Cambodian prisons has soared to almost double the amount it was in 2005, young people’s access to justice has remained almost non-existent, alarming rights groups across the country.

A consortium of ministry representatives, judges, prosecutors, police and prison officials, support workers and NGOs gathered on Friday at a Cambodia Court of Appeal, OHCHR and UNICEF-arranged workshop flagging the urgency needed for an overhaul of children’s rights in Cambodia’s court system.

Ministry of Interior statistics from the Kingdom’s prison department show 772 under 18-year-olds were detained in the country’s prisons in 2010, soaring from 403 just five years earlier.

Yet juvenile rights within the justice system were being fettered by limited legal aid provision, detainment in adult prisons and the denial of rights to legal counsel, causing more children to slip through the cracks, Denise Shepherd-Johnson, ?chief of communication?for UNICEF Cambodia, said.

“Sadly, some children are still being detained as a first response,” Shepherd-Johnson said.

“This is the first time all of these stakeholders have come together collectively … so that shows a will … (but) at the moment everyone works in silos, we need handovers to be more interactive.”

A UNICEF presentation on Friday highlighted the lack of a juvenile detention centre or diversion program, and cited successful examples piloted in Laos and Thailand, where minor crimes are dealt with by community leaders or a warning system. For more serious crimes, the child is referred to a structured diversion program.

Ou Virak, Cambodian Center for Human Rights president, said a policy overhaul should be a priority.

“Children should not be placed in prisons with adults. There should be a separate detention centre and most importantly they need to have the opportunity to change and be rehabilitated, something they do not have right now,” he said.

Virak added separating children from adult prisons would alleviate the pressures of prison crowding.

“Having children [in adult prisons] merely perpetuates a circle of crime, increasing their risk of getting into trouble with criminal rings,” he said.

Department of Prisons and Ministry of Interior officials could not be reached for comment.

To contact the reporter on this story: Claire Knox at [email protected]

RECOMMENDED STORIES

  • Breaking: PM says prominent human rights NGO ‘must close’

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has instructed the Interior Ministry to investigate the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) and potentially close it “because they follow foreigners”, appearing to link the rights group to the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party's purported “revolution”. The CNRP - the

  • Rainsy and Sokha ‘would already be dead’: PM

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Sunday appeared to suggest he would have assassinated opposition leaders Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha had he known they were promising to “organise a new government” in the aftermath of the disputed 2013 national elections. In a clip from his speech

  • Massive ceremony at Angkor Wat will show ‘Cambodia not in anarchy’: PM

    Government officials, thousands of monks and Prime Minister Hun Sen himself will hold a massive prayer ceremony at Angkor Wat in early December to highlight the Kingdom’s continuing “peace, independence and political stability”, a spectacle observers said was designed to disguise the deterioration of

  • PM tells workers CNRP is to blame for any sanctions

    In a speech to workers yesterday, Prime Minister Hun Sen pinned the blame for any damage inflicted on Cambodia’s garment industry by potential economic sanctions squarely on the opposition party. “You must remember clearly that if the purchase orders are reduced, it is all