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Penal code misunderstood: UN

Three years after the passage of the Penal Code, judges still “misinterpret” many key articles, including defamation, disinformation and public insult, the UN and justice officials said yesterday.

Speaking at a two-day workshop, officials from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and Ministry of Justice offered an outline of the most frequently misapplied articles to provincial judges, prosecutors and police.  

“Cases of misinterpretation or misapplication of the Penal Code can lead to people being unfairly punished or unfairly left unpunished, and to possible violations of human rights,” said OHCHR representative James Heenan.

Passed in 2009, the Penal Code has at times been criticised by rights groups, who point to its defamation and incitement articles as thinly veiled attempts to criminalise freedom of expression.

But those attending the workshop remained diplomatic, insisting a lack of understanding was the sole explanation for convictions that could be considered human-rights violations.

“The difficulty for compliance is because this new code has more than 200 articles,” Meas Chan Pisith, deputy prosecutor of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, explained.

To contact the reporter on this story: Chhay Channyda at channyda.chhay@phnompenhpost.com

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