OLICE interrogators forced a suspect to confess to the July 5 rape of a French woman
in Phnom Penh, according to defence lawyers.
Srey Kroeung, 20, a former law student charged with rape, armed robbery, and the
illegal possession of a firearm, recently explained his confession to the Cambodia
Defenders Project (CDP).
"During the police interrogation, Kroeung was beaten," said the defender,
who recently visited the accused in T3 prison, and who preferred not to be named.
"The police told him that if he did not confess to the rape, they would beat
his 13-year-old brother too."
According to the defender, Kroeung told her that when he was arrested on July 10,
both he and his younger brother were blindfolded and taken away for questioning.
When Kroeung was brought into the interrogation room, police officers removed his
blindfold and then pointed to his brother who could be seen through the window of
an adjacent room, she said.
"The police asked him 'Did you rape that French woman?'
"When Kroeung said 'No', they said he should admit that he committed the act...
He did not admit anything, so they started to beat his brother. When he heard his
brother screaming, Kroeung finally complied, saying, 'Now, what do you want me to
The defender said that in the course of the interrogation Kroeung's left index finger
- which had been broken before - was permanently damaged.
At press time, Kro-eung's brother and parents were unavailable for comment.
Kroeung's allegation that he was forced to confess was rejected by a senior Ministry
of Interior official.
"When we arrested the suspect Srey Kroeung, we interrogated him according to
normal procedures," said General Mao Chandara, first deputy with the Central
Department of Justice Police. "We did not beat him."
"The suspect confessed that his intention was not to rape the woman, but he
said that when he saw her cleavage he became excited... When she did not consent
to have sex with him, he pointed a gun to her head and then started to rape her."
Sok Sam Oeun, who heads CDP's Cambodia Public Advocates, said his office had taken
on the Kroeung case on Sept 9, and was awaiting findings of an official enquiry by
the Investigating Judge assigned to it, Ya Sokharn.
Sokharn would not reveal details of his investigation, nor comment on the claim that
Kroeung was beaten into confessing.
Sokharn said he has till mid-November to complete his confidential investigation,
unless he deems it necessary to request a two-month extension. Once the report is
done the process to set a trial date will begin.
It is unclear whether the victim herself - who was repatriated the morning after
the rape - will come back to Cambodia to identify and testify against the suspect,
Under the UNTAC criminal code, rape with the threatened use of a weapon cannot be
proven unless "witnesses mentioned in police files are heard in court or examined
by the intervening party, the accused or their respective counsel, or by the prosecutor."
Article 24 adds: "Confessions by accused persons are never grounds for conviction
unless corroborated by other evidence. A confession obtained under duress, of whatever
form, shall be considered null and void..."
French Embassy spokesman Franck Gellet refused to comment on the case, saying that
the embassy would "wait for the Cambodian authorities to complete their judicial
investigation" before deciding whether to summon the woman back.
However, Ya Sokharn, the Investigating Judge, said that he has been waiting more
than six weeks for the embassy to provide him with the address of the victim so that
he could speak to her and obtain critical information directly.
"On Aug 29, my court sent a letter to the French Embassy asking them to give
us information so that we can get in touch with her, and still we have had no reply"
he said. "If I do not hear from the victim and get information straight from
her, then I will not be able to complete my investigation."
CDP's Sok Sam Oeun also pointed out that not to bring her back could mean sending
an innocent man to jail for ten to 15 years.
"In order to avoid condemning the wrong person, the woman should come back to
give her testimony in court and to identify whether or not this man was her rapist,"