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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Police in Cambodia still torture inmates, rights group reports

Police in Cambodia still torture inmates, rights group reports

The Asian Human Rights Commission urges greater transparency and legal protection for prisoners held in police detention facilities.

DESPITE improvements in the treatment of prisoners, torture is still being used to extract confessions at police detention centres, where there is little oversight from outside groups, according to a statement released by the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) on Wednesday that urged the Prosecutor General's Office to do more to protect detainees from abuse.

"Torture exists in Cambodia in one form or another," said Lao Mong Hay, the senior researcher for Southeast Asia at the AHRC, adding that it typically takes the form of "beatings and kickings".

Some police have committed crimes and ... torture suspects to get a confession.

Friday is International Day Against Torture, and the AHRC acknowledged that Cambodia had made strides over the years, pointing to efforts by the Prosecutor General's Office to inspect police stations across the country. But the Hong Kong-based human rights group pushed the government to do more to protect detained suspects from police abuse.

"The government has committed itself to [ending torture], but when translated into action, it takes time," he said. "The police officers are not well-trained in finding evidence, and they are not well-paid."

Kirt Chantharith, a police spokesman, said that some police have mistreated detainees in the past, but that it was against the law, and new mechanisms to protect detainees were unnecessary.

"Some police have committed crimes and they tried to torture suspects to get a confession," he said. "The prosecutor will investigate the case. If they find torture ... the police will be punished."

AHRC recommended that the Prosecutor General of the Court of Appeal create a torture complaint unit, which would have the power to order a prosecutor to conduct an investigation. It also urged all prosecutors to examine suspects brought before them to determine if they have been tortured.

But Lao Mong Hay said even with these changes, "the prosecutors cannot do it alone", adding that prosecutors often "don't want to antagonise police ... [because] their work depends on working with them".

Organisations blocked out

Unlike prisons, outside organisations have little access to police detention facilities, according to AHRC, and suspects can be interrogated for up to 24 hours without any legal counsel.

Lao Mong Hay blamed the Criminal Code of Conduct, which he said was based on colonial-era criminal procedures.

"We need to change the Crimininal Code of Conduct to ensure that accused persons have access to legal counsel straight after their arrests," he said. Officials with the Prosecutor General's Office were unavailable for comment on Wednesday.



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