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Law enforcement strives for better forensics

Law enforcement strives for better forensics

In an effort to shore up the evidence trail in rape cases, doctors throughout

the country have been trained in the use of a new standardized medical

examination form.

The incidence of sexual assault against women and

children is disturbingly high in Cambodia, but conviction rates remain

relatively low, with lack of evidence adding to the usual judicial complaints of

corruption, intimidation of victims and out of court settlements.

"Often

the suspect is released by the court because of a lack of evidence, even though

we know the victim has been raped ... so now we're working on the forensic

evidence," said Christian Guth, a law enforcement advisor to the Ministry of

Interior's Anti-Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection Department. "If the

file is really heavy with hard facts it makes it more difficult for the judge to

release [the suspect]."

The eight-page medical examination form can be

requested by investigating police and used by the judge, prosecutor and lawyers

for the victim and suspect.

On September 15, the donor-funded Law

Enforcement Against Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking of Children project held

a workshop involving 100 doctors from Phnom Penh and each province to explain

the new form and how it is to be used.

Better use of medical evidence is

part of a training effort that has seen specialized police learn interview

techniques for both victims and suspects, improve their search practices and

receive equipment such as field investigating kits and cameras.

The

Anti-Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection Department is based in Phnom Penh

and has 11 provincial branches.

From the start of this year to August 31,

police from the department investigated 351 cases of rape or sexual assault,

resulting in 251 arrests, said Guth, who was confident that with improved

policing and medical evidence a large of number of cases would result in

convictions.

Last year, local human rights group LICADHO investigated 177

complaints of rape and indecent assault, resulting in just five trials and four

convictions.

Of those victims, LICADHO said that 78 percent were under

18 years old, with almost 9 percent five years or younger.

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