Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - First local human rights report issued

First local human rights report issued

First local human rights report issued

ADHOC, the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association, has released its first

annual survey of the country's human rights situation. The document, Human Rights

Report 2001, is also the first comprehensive survey of human rights in Cambodia compiled

by a local NGO.

ADHOC investigated 375 cases of domestic violence last year, and stated that 90 percent

were attacks on women by men. The organization concluded that the violence associated

with the civil war and the 1975-79 Democratic Kampuchea regime was predominantly

responsible. ADHOC also noted the importance of poverty and lack of education as

factors.

Thun Saray, president of ADHOC, told the Post that "people were used to using

violence at that time, and violence entered into their spirits".

"As for poverty," Saray added, "sometimes people use violence because

they are struck with the difficulties of their lives."

The report quoted research by the Ministry of Planning showing one in four women

between 15 and 45 are abused by their husbands. ADHOC also reported that three-quarters

of rape victims in Cambodia last year were under 17. Saray said that many of the

rapes against girls and young women - which are increasing though the overall rate

is not - were from fears of contracting HIV.

"Also, some of it is due to people seeing sexual images on videos in cafes in

rural areas," he said. One reason the overall rape rate had not improved was

because financial compensation for rape victims, a common punishment in Cambodia,

was ineffective as a way of dealing with the crime.

"The main factor in the level of rapes is that compensation [does not work]

and powerful people go unpunished. Also, the authorities often do not have the means

to find the perpetrators," he said.

Of judicial reform, a key issue recognized by donors, ADHOC said: "The year

2001 does not present any significant progress within the judiciary." Cambodia's

judiciary is commonly regarded as lacking independence from those with political

influence and money.

ADHOC noted the potential importance of the formation of the Judicial Reform Council

in 2000, but regretted that "no concrete action has [since] been achieved".

It also expressed concerns about changes to the Law on Criminal Procedure, which

is currently awaiting promulgation by the King.

The report also focused on political violence. Last year saw 12 political killings

and 100 cases of politically motivated intimidation. Although the rate was sharply

higher than the previous year, it acknowledged that the numbers of politically related

cases were much lower than in 1998, the year of the last national election.

The report singled out six events as "important and remarkable". These

were the commune council elections, held early February 2002; progress towards the

Khmer Rouge tribunal law, which is currently in limbo after the UN announced it was

withdrawing from the process; the trials of alleged members of the Cambodian Freedom

Fighters; the Prime Minister's instruction closing karaoke bars in November; Cambodia's

ratification of the Rome Statute that seeks to establish an International Criminal

Court; and the case of 1,000 Montagnard refugees from Vietnam currently in refugee

camps in the country's northeast.

ADHOC noted a one-third decrease in extra-judicial killings: 64 people were killed

by mobs or law-enforcement authorities in 2001, for which it blamed shortcomings

in law enforcement.

"[ADHOC] will persevere to improve and enhance our next report by adding more

important aspects of the human rights situation, which will evolve throughout the

next year," said Saray.

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