Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Justice system failing child victims: experts

Justice system failing child victims: experts

A nine-year-old rape victim waits in a Battambang province police station last month.
A nine-year-old rape victim waits in a Battambang province police station last month. Athena Zelandonii

Justice system failing child victims: experts

Cambodia’s justice system often fails to support children who are victims of and witnesses to crime, many of whom are so terrified to appear in court that they’re unable to give testimony, children’s rights experts said yesterday.

“When children are abused, they often respond by repressing and fragmenting memories,” Micaela Cronin, CEO of Hagar International, said during the launch of a new guide to train lawyers and caregivers working with child witnesses and victims. “That’s why it’s so important that people working in the justice system be sensitive to children.”

The new guide, released by Hagar and UNICEF, aims to give adults in Cambodia the tools to protect and communicate with children in a justice system that can often increase the stress of traumatised children.

Children are occasionally transported to trial in the same vehicles or made to wait in the same room as their abuser, experts said.

Meanwhile, overworked lawyers often forget that children have the right to ask for a screen to block them from seeing their abuser, or to speak through video technology instead of being present in the courtroom, explained Debora Petworth, a juvenile law expert with Hagar.

Demanding these rights be protected is part of the lawyer’s responsibility, Petworth said. But many lawyers say the video technology is unavailable in provincial courts as they don’t have the extra rooms in which to set it up, or because officials don’t understand the technology.

But Appeals Court prosecutor Tan Senarong said the negligence can’t be blamed on a lack of technical skills. “That’s just an excuse,” Senarong said. “It’s as easy as operating an iPhone.”

Asked whether the higher courts could pressure provincial courts to begin offering the video option to children, Senarong said the Ministry of Justice could “take action” if a complaint were made in writing.

But some experts say the government has done little to ensure the technology is available.

“Anecdotally, this [screens and video technology] doesn’t seem to be offered very often,” said Billy Tai, a legal analyst in Cambodia. “And I haven’t seen any push on the part of the government to enforce this.”

Members of UNICEF say they hope the new guidelines will help address these issues.

“We want these guidelines to be mainstream in the Cambodian justice system,” said Debora Comini, Cambodia’s UNICEF director.

MOST VIEWED

  • Ministry issues warning over coronavirus outbreak

    The Ministry of Health on Wednesday asked the public to be on “high alert” as a new virus wreaks havoc across Asia. However, no cases have been reported in the Kingdom thus far. The 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) has raised the alarm for its similarity to

  • Call for boycott of Angkor unacceptable

    Dear Editor, I wish to express my strong disagreement on the article published by Traveller for their website with the title Best places to go in 2020: 12 destinations you should avoid. Below is my opinion of the article. It is obviously free for the Traveller to

  • Probe underway after wreckage of drone with Chinese characters found

    Air Force Command spokesman Prak Sokha said on Sunday that investigations are underway regarding the wreckage of a drone that was recovered in Koh Kong province’s Koh Sdech commune in Kiri Sakor district. The wreckage has been taken to the capital for further examination,

  • Gov’t slams UN rapporteurs over Sokha trial statement

    The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and the Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of Cambodia to the UN Office in Geneva deplored the statement of three UN special rapporteurs who claimed that Kem Sokha’s trial was “tainted” due to irregularities. The reaction

  • No power shortages next dry season, says energy minister

    Minister of Mines and Energy Suy Sem has assured the public that Cambodia will not suffer power shortages during the next dry season. Speaking on local TV on Tuesday, Sem projected a rise in power demand during 2020’s dry season – which starts in November and

  • Gov’t takes steps to lower logistics, transport costs

    With the threat of losing trade privileges in the EU drawing closer, the government is taking measures to reduce logistics and transportation costs to safeguard the Kingdom’s competitiveness. The EU is due to decide whether or not to withdraw the Kingdom’s trade privileges