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Ministry reviews clemency requests

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Prisoners at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court in 2019. Heng Chivoan

Ministry reviews clemency requests

The Ministry of Justice will hold a meeting on March 31 to review and evaluate the list of 542 prisoners eligible for sentence reductions or pardons for the upcoming Khmer New Year holiday in April.

Ministry of Justice spokesman Kim Santepheap told The Post on March 30 that justice minister Koeut Rith will chair a virtual national commission meeting to review the lists.

The meeting will evaluate requests from 23 prisons and four correctional centres for a total of 542 inmates, 68 of them women – pardons for 70 inmates and sentence reductions for 472.

Santepheap said sentence reductions and pardons could be granted on a humanitarian basis for inmates who have severe illnesses, pregnant women or women who have a child living with them in detention. Inmates who are mentally ill and elderly are also eligible for clemency on this basis.

He said an inmate can only receive a reduction to their sentence if they have served one-third of their total prison terms. The pardon commission will also review the specific crimes and damage done to society by an inmate when considering whether or not they should be pardoned or have their prison term reduced.

“For some prisoners, the national pardon commission cannot provide any concessions. For example, drug kingpins or rapists – particularly the rape [of a family member] – and murders committed with unusual cruelty,” he said.

According to Santepheap , after reviewing and evaluating the lists, the ministry will submit them to King Norodom Sihamoni through Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Am Sam Ath, deputy director for the rights group Licadho, said in recent years sentence reductions and pardons had far fewer irregularities compared to the past.

“[Following reforms] by the prime minister a few years ago, we’ve seen an improvement. There used to be sentence reduction or pardon requests for hundreds or thousands of inmates on every holiday.

“But now there are regulations and an organised process that goes through several stages and the number of inmate requests has dropped,” he said.

Sam Ath said, however, that in all cases the authorities should apply the law appropriately and transparently and the process should also be fair to prisoners who make sincere efforts to rehabilitate themselves while incarcerated.

Sentence reduction and pardon requests are now granted on five national holidays: Victory Day (January 7), Khmer New Year, Visak Bochea, National Independence Day and Water Festival.

The royal decree states: “The sentence reductions and pardons for prisoners are aimed at reintegrating them into society or for humanitarian purposes and can only be applied to prisoners who have been convicted and sentenced by final verdict.”

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