Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Government forms new anti-torture org in bid for UN compliance

Government forms new anti-torture org in bid for UN compliance

Prisoners sit at Prey Sar in Phnom Penh in 2010. A new committee to combat torture in Cambodia’s prisons and jails has been formed, with a prisons official’s father as its head.
Prisoners sit at Prey Sar in Phnom Penh in 2010. A new committee to combat torture in Cambodia’s prisons and jails has been formed, with a prisons official’s father as its head. Post staff

Government forms new anti-torture org in bid for UN compliance

A new committee to combat torture in Cambodia’s prisons and jails has been formed at the request of Prime Minister Hun Sen, with the top position given to a former government official whose son is a deputy prisons director.

Ex-Interior Ministry official Nuth Sa An, the new head of the National Committee Against Torture, said yesterday that the nine-member body will act independently in their investigation of torture-related abuses despite all being composed of retired government officials.

“None of us are with a political party because the position has nothing to do with politics,” said Sa An, adding that civil society organisations are not allowed to participate.

Sa An’s son, Nuth Savna, is a deputy director of the General Prisons Department at the Ministry of Interior. A subsequent call to Sa An to address potential conflicts of interest went unanswered.

Human rights observers have long criticised Cambodia’s delay in meeting the requirements of the United Nations Convention Against Torture, which requires the Kingdom to establish an independent national body that allows victims to report torture-related abuses.

Cambodia has yet to establish that independent body in the decade since ratifying the agreement, observers say.

Last year, Interior Minister Sar Kheng said he would reform the government’s little-known Committee Against Torture into one “which can be trusted by the public”. Mak Sambath, permanent deputy director of the new committee, confirmed yesterday that the previous committee – formed in 2009 and widely criticised for a lack of independence – had been “dissolved” and replaced.

Billy Chia-Lung Tai, a human rights lawyer who conducted a review of Cambodia’s implementation of international cov-enants last year, said he was surprised to hear about the existence of such a body.

“I’m fully willing to accept that this committee may have existed in some form for quite a long time. But if we are not even aware of it, what’s this committee been doing?” Tai said. “That’s the question.”

Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia division, questioned whether the Cambodian government had ever been serious about trying to investigate torture in its detention facilities.

“It’s pretty good at setting up useless committees to give the appearance that something is being done, and this is more of the same,” Robertson said.

The royal decree names Sieng Labres and Mak Sambath as deputy directors of the committee, and Sakheoun Savatdy, Ou Sirita, Kong Chhan, Khiev Pov, Liv Mov and Nhang Torng as members.

MOST VIEWED

  • First case of coronavirus reported in the Kingdom

    Cambodia reported its first case of the deadly 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) on Monday, Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng announced. He said medical specialists detected the virus in a Chinese tourist in Sihanoukville. The minister said Jia Jianhua, 60, travelled from Wuhan city, where the outbreak

  • PM urges precaution amid virus outbreak

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Sunday called on all Cambodians to bump up precautions to avoid contracting the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) that has already killed more than 50 people in China. The prime minister told the public to remain calm but alert about the possibility of

  • NBC’s digital payments to go live in next few months

    The National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) will launch a Blockchain-based, peer-to-peer payment and money transfer platform in the next few months, its director-general Chea Serey told The Post on Monday. Dubbed ‘Project Bakong’, the scheme already has the support of 11 banks, with many more expected

  • Gov’t slams NGO over 2019 corruption report

    The government on Thursday slammed a report that described the Kingdom as highly corrupt. Government spokesperson Phay Siphan dismissed the latest Transparency International (TI) report as “just an advertisement of NGOs to promote their own interests”. Released on Thursday, the report puts Cambodia near the

  • Learning Jungle’s Ly Virak speaks on education sector

    The Canada-franchised Learning Jungle International School has recently expanded into secondary education under the name Westview Cambodian International School. The Phnom Penh Post’s May Kunmakara spoke with its founder, Ly Virak, to discuss his business as well as the development of the education sector

  • Gov’t answers garment buyers’ complaint

    Some of the biggest buyers in the Kingdom’s garment sector have urged Prime Minister Hun Sen to address issues faced by unions and workers – a request a senior official said was out of touch with the situation on the ground. The letter addressed to