Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Rise in mob killings worries UN

Rise in mob killings worries UN

Rise in mob killings worries UN

A UN human rights report says angry crowds have murdered suspected thieves on 11

occasions in the last six months, and that police frequently failed to intervene

or were even complicit.

The report, released June 10 by UN human rights

envoy Peter Leuprecht, showed instances of mob killings in urban areas rose

dramatically after an 18 month decline. There were only three such deaths in the

previous six months.

UN political analyst Adrian Edwards said an absence

of law enforcement and the failure of the courts to take up cases and bring

those responsible to justice had partially caused the increase in killings.

"You are also getting societal attitudes which think the killing of a

'bad' person is justified and the belief that these actions are condoned by the

authorities," he said.

The report found police sometimes "act above the

law" by instigating attacks and often did not pass files to the courts. Edwards

said that stemmed from a low level of faith in the judicial system.

"That

is why the judicial reforms that donors are currently pointing to are so

critical," he said.

At least 65 mob killings have occurred since the UN

began reporting in mid-1999, with almost 50 in Phnom Penh alone. It found ten

cases of "complacency or complicity," which led people to believe that "mob

justice is condoned or even rewarded".

In one case in March 2000, a

Vietnamese construction worker was beaten by police then handed to a mob who

killed him for apparently attempting to steal a motorbike.

The UN

acknowledged that over the last year police had intervened to stop mob killings

on several occasions and may have saved five lives. Edwards said this was

positive, but "much more needs to be done".

The deputy

commissioner-general of the national police, Sau Phan, denied police handed over

offenders to angry mobs, but said that in some cases police were powerless to

stop the killings.

"The police have training and protect [alleged]

thieves or robbers from mob killings," Phan said. "We take them to head office

and file a complaint to the court. Sometimes there are few police and many

villagers and they grab the thief and kill them."

The report recommended

establishing an independent board of inquiry to examine fully the complex

reasons behind mob killings.

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