Torture, chronic overcrowding and bribery continue to plague Cambodia's prisons
despite some advances in basic health and sanitation services, say local human
Despite difficult circumstances, inmates at Kandal provincial prison sleep away their time. According to Licadho, nearly one in three have been tortured.
Licadho, which monitors 18 of the county's 25 prisons,
said prison conditions represent one of the most pressing human rights concerns
in the kingdom and urged the government to address the problems within its
"You can tell about the human rights situation in a country by
the way it treats its prisoners," said Naly Pilorge, director of
Licadho received four reports of torture in prisons during
January, but warned that the real situation is difficult to determine because
interviews with prisoners are conducted near guards.
Last year, Licadho
received 41 reports of torture inside correctional centers, an increase from 24
cases in 2003.
Adhoc, which also monitors human rights, investigated 354
suspects in detention (both police custody and prison) last year and found that
31 percent had been tortured, mostly by beatings. Adhoc found that two thirds of
those tortured by beating were shackled at the time.
This can lead to
serious mental trauma as well as physical injury, said Chan Soveth, program
officer for Adhoc's monitoring section.
"Sometimes they forget everything
- this is from the threat, the torture [and] not enough [medical] treatment,"
In 2004, there were 58 deaths in prisons, with 22 of them
occurring at the men's correctional center (CC1), also known as Prey Sar,
according to statistics from Licadho.
Most deaths were caused by disease,
with HIV often likely to be an undiagnosed factor. Licadho said that some deaths
could probably be avoided with better hygeine, adequate food and water, and
proper medical attention.
Corruption remains rampant inside prisons, with
inmates and their families being forced to pay bribes for what should be
provided free or paying for special privileges and services, stated reports from
both Licadho and Adhoc.
Family members of prisoners often have to pay at
every checkpoint as they enter the facility to visit their relative. Interviews
done by Licadho at CC1 showed that a well-established system exists for graft,
with prices ranging from 2,000 to 3,000 riel or a pack of cigarettes at the
first checkpoint to 5,000 riel demanded in order fill out the official form at
the administration building. Prison guards also took portions of food that
families had brought for inmates.
Prisoners even had to pay for
transportation to court for their own trial in many prisons, with rates set at
$20 for men at CC1 and $5 for minors at CC2. Those who didn't pay risked being
detained longer without trial.
Extra recreational time, visits from a
doctor and basic items like soap all required bribes at many prisons, said
Malnutrition was a major contributor to other health issues,
with the government's allocation of 1,000 riel per person each day for food and
cooking materials woefully inadequate, said the human rights
"This amount was approved in 1993 and since then it has never
been increased in proportion to the price of food in the markets," stated
Adhoc's Human Rights Situation Report 2004, released last month.
incidence of beriberi - a disease caused by a prolonged deficiency in vitamin B
- effects around seven percent of the prison population. Symptoms include
weakness and paralysis, and when combined with cardiac problems can bring on
fatal heart attacks.
Scabies, a parasitic skin disease, is still found
among around seven percent of inmates, but this figure has dropped markedly
since Licadho began training prisoners and authorities in simple sanitation such
as regularly cleaning cells and clothes.
Overcrowding exacerbates all
other problems within prisons, said the human rights groups. One of the worst
examples was in Kampong Thom, where a prison built in 1996 to accommodate 40
inmates was crammed with 137 people in December 2004.
As of January,
there were 6,092 adults in prison, including 341 females, and 318 juveniles
under the age of 18. Excessive pre-trial detention means that approximately a
third of Cambodia's prison population have yet to be convicted of a crime.
Samkol Sokun, director of the Prisons Department at the Ministry of
Interior, was asked to comment on the human rights abuses, but hung up his phone
after saying: "I do not know any Licadho [or] Adhoc concerns."
rights monitors are concerned about the jail in Siem Reap after Prison Director
Chhen Savuth barred workers from visiting the 603 people in custody there
despite authorization from the MoI.
Licadho has urged the government to
address the human rights and health situation within the correctional
facsilities, stressing the need for a bigger prisons budget, an increased daily
ration for prisoners and better access to health workers.
Department recently appointed 33 new health care workers for Cambodia's prisons
and funded 11 universities to train nurses who will work in correctional
Licado, however, said that health care remained well short of
minimum standards set out in Cambodian and international law.
member of the United Nations, Cambodia is obliged to adhere to the 'Standard
Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners' adopted in 1955. This obligation
is written into Article 8 of Cambodia's criminal law.