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.
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.
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".
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.