L etter addressed to Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Senator Gareth
I would like to bring to your attention the case of a British doctor
now under detention in Cambodia for having sex with children. This matter has
been publicised on the Internet by Michael Smith who works for Danish National
The story he tells is that Gavin Scott was arrested on a
charge of having sex with 15-year-old boys in Phnom Penh on the initiative of
NGOs wanting to mount a test case to prevent others having sex with children.
The point Smith makes is that NGOs should also make sure the judicial system is
equipped and able to handle such an important case. The evidence is that it is
not. There is grave fear that the accused's human rights and rights to a fair
trial will not be respected.
The sentence he can expect has been
estimated at ten years, a most draconian one. Smith cites, as a guide, the case
of a 66-year-old man found guilty of sex in Pattaya in Thailand with a
13-year-old who was sentenced to four months by a court in Sweden.
most serious aspect of the case is that Scott is unlikely to have a competent
defender. An article in the Phnom Penh Post reports statements by two
independent human rights workers.
Michael Karnavas, previously of the
Cambodian Defenders Project (CDP) has suggested the United Nations Committee on
Human Rights (UNCHR) had close relations with the Lichado human rights group,
one of the NGOs behind Scott's arrest. Apparently this relationship is now
preventing UNCHR from attempting to get Scott a fair trial. Karnavas himself,
while director of the CDP to act on Scott's behalf, though they are by far the
most competent to provide an adequate defence. Another defenders' group, CADEAS
has also refused to take the case and it has been left to the group Charto to
assign its administrative director, Oum Samuel, to the defence.
Julian, a former Human Rights Commissioner for New Zealand has said there is no
way that Samuel, untrained as a defender and wih minimal experience, could
provide an adequate defence. It also appears that Charto have refused to accept
the help of independent British lawyer, Robert Carlin. Carlin cannot act without
a Cambodian colleague, and Samuel has not been willing to even see
Australia is highly commended throughout the world for its support
of democracy and stability in Cambodia and has recently acted strongly to
prevent child abuse. It would be very fitting for Australia to persuade UN
agencies and the British to act to give Dr. Gavin Scott the benefit of a proper
defence. He has been in T3 since 23 June, and those who know characterize this
prision as, perhaps, the most awful place of detention in the world.
self-appointed defenders of human rights have failed. Karnavas says "human
rights groups have been silent on Scott's inability to get a competent defender.
There appears to be an attitude of 'he's guilty so let him hang'."
perhaps time for those with influence and authority to act. The justice system
in tragic Cambodia should not include NGO-led lynch mobs.
I beg leave to
send a copy of this letter to the British High Commission and the Phnom Penh
Post, and to post it on internet.
- Gehan Wijeyewardene, Senior Fellow in Anthropology, Australian National