HE Government is considering a new draft criminal procedure code which has provisions
for pretrial detention the same length as the minimum sentence in the case of felonies.
A person charged with murder could, under the law's provisions, be held for 10 years
without trial, provided the investigating judge goes before the courts once a year
and presents reasons for continuing the detention.
It is unclear what the maximum length of pretrial detention would be for cases of
terrorism or kidnapping of a minor - crimes which carry a minimum sentence of life
Justice Minister Ouk Vithum refused to comment about the provisions of the new bill
other than to say it was being examined by an interministerial committee.
The new criminal code was drafted by French legal experts based on French law, but
it is not clear where the pretrial detention provisions came from.
A copy obtained by the Post shows a proposal to restructure crimes into categories
depending on seriousness from felony to misdemeanor.
In the case of a felony, detention can be extended in one-year blocks. For less serious
crimes - misdemeanors - the maximum pretrial detention is half the minimum sentence.
Minors under the age of 13 will not be able to be held in custody. They will either
have to be placed in the care of their parents or guardians or an approved "vocational
training center". However youths over the age of 13 but under 16 and charged
with a felony can be held for six months in pretrial detention; those between 16
and 18 can be held up to one year.
The number of people already in pretrial detention in Cambodia has been repeatedly
criticized by human rights groups. In April this year there were 127 cases of pretrial
detention in excess of the legal maximum of six months; two of those cases involved
people who were waiting more than two years for their trial and another 32 had waited
more than a year. Many of those being held were under 18.
The new provisions have been condemned by human rights groups as a fundamental breach
of human rights.
The President of human rights group Adhoc, Thun Saray, said he opposed any move in
which people were sent to prison without trial.
"It is not acceptable. I do not like to see long temporary detention because
this relates to the most basic human rights," he said.