Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Juvenile detention rate alarming: org

Juvenile detention rate alarming: org

Juvenile detention rate alarming: org

In spite of international laws and Cambodia’s own legal code, pre-trial detention is becoming more prevalent among child offenders than adults, according to data compiled by a trial monitoring project.

Imprisoning offenders under the age of 18 should only be an absolute last resort in the most exceptional cases, according to child rights conventions. Yet 87 per cent of the Kingdom’s juveniles are being locked up in pre-trial detention, briefing notes published Sunday by the Cambodian Center for Human Rights said.

The notes are compiled from trial monitoring of 2,558 cases from 2009 to 2012. In the most recent monitoring period in 2012, almost 92 per cent of the juvenile offenders were held in pre-trial detention compared to 71 per cent of the adults.

“The fact that pre-trial detention is the norm for the overwhelming majority of juvenile defendants represents a huge blow to the presumption of innocence and right to liberty,” the briefing said.

And while Cambodian law emphasises that alternatives to prison should be considered in sentencing children, only a single one of the monitored cases involved a judge willing to propose an option apart from incarceration.

“In principle, the law considers juveniles differently, but in practice we lack mechanisms and specific legal guidance on how to separate adults and children,” said Touch Chiva, project coordinator at Legal Aid of Cambodia.

Eight of the minors Legal Aid is currently working with are being held under pre-trial detention, according to Chiva. He could only recall a small handful of cases in which an article of the criminal code suggesting minors be educated or put under the surveillance of the court had been applied.

“We just don’t have the facilities or the precedent,” he said.

In absence of a separate juvenile justice system or any juvenile-specific detention facilities, children tried and prosecuted under adult laws are also locked up in the same prisons and, in most cases, the same cells as adults.

“It is absolutely inappropriate to lock up children with adult criminals,” said Ly Vichuta, executive director of Legal Support for Children and Women. “It exposes them to more crime and violence, puts their rehabilitation at risk and threatens their development.”

A draft juvenile justice law has been in the works for over a decade, and Sunday’s briefing note called for its expedient passage. But skeptics aren’t expecting the draft to see light in the National Assembly anytime soon, or for it to make any quick overhauls to the long-entrenched system.

“The government lacks political will for this reform.…But until they [implement it] children are suffering the consequences,” Chiva said.

MOST VIEWED

  • Typhoon Noru brings flash floods – 16 dead

    An official warned that that the 16th typhoon of the season, Noru, had brought heavy rains to areas the Mekong River and flooded thousands of homes in the provinces bordering Thailand. As of September 27, the death toll from the flooding had risen to 16. National Committee

  • Siem Reap drain canal now ‘mangrove’ promenade

    A more than half a kilometre long stretch of canal in Siem Reap has been covered and turned into a promenade to attract visitors, said Ly Rasmey, secretary of state at the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction, on September 16. The new pedestrianised

  • Angkor wildlife, aquarium park still to open October

    The Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium complex about 30km southeast of Siem Reap town with initial total investment of more than $70 million is reportedly still on track for an end-October opening. The park is located on a 100ha plot along National Road 6 in Kbon village, Khchas

  • Defence minister reaffirms Kingdom’s staunch support for One-China policy

    Minister of National Defence General Tea Banh has reaffirmed Cambodia’s unwavering support for the One-China policy. Tea Banh was speaking at the September 20 ceremonial handover of 117 vehicles and other military equipment donated by China’s defence ministry, held at Phnom Chumreay International Military Training

  • Deaths due to ‘lifestyle’ diseases rise in Kingdom

    The Ministry of Health has called on people to pay closer attention to their health to protect themselves from non-communicable diseases (NCDs) which it said have caused high rates of deaths in the country. Ministry secretary of state York Sambath made the call at a

  • Thai Senate delegates in Cambodia to discuss anti-graft co-op

    A delegation from Thailand's Senate was in Phnom Penh on September 28 to meet their Cambodian counterparts to discuss strategies for fighting corruption and enhancing cooperation. The Thai delegates were from its Senate’s Committee on Studying and Inspecting Corruption, Misconduct and Strengthening Good Governance. They