Cambodian-UN prison initiative improves conditions for detainees

5 January 2010

More than one thousand inmates at the Siem Reap prison now have more water for daily drinking, cooking and personal hygiene thanks to an innovative partnership between the United Nations human rights office and the Government of Cambodia aimed at prison reform.

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Cambodia (OHCHR-Cambodia) worked with authorities at the country’s third largest prison to install a rain-water harvesting system that provides water free of charge and helps to preserve the underground water resources.

Before the system was introduced, the 1,300 detainees had to rely on limited underground water for drinking, preparing meals, washing and sewage disposal.

However, now with the new system, the prisoners have access to an average of over 8,000 litres of additional water per day.

The project is just one of several carried out by OHCHR-Cambodia’s Prison Reform Support Programme, which since its launch in 2008 has also helped to achieve an almost doubling of daily food ration per detainee, from the equivalent of $0.37 to $0.70, in all the 24 prisons across the country.

“The programme takes a holistic approach. It’s about human rights monitoring and at the same time working with the General Department of Prisons (GDP) to tackle the root causes of problems,” says Marie-Dominique Parent, OHCHR-Cambodia Human Rights Officer in charge of the programme.

“Detainees’ rights are much broader than civil and political rights. So we look at all aspects of life in prison including food, health, sanitation and water, and help the prison authorities to find practical solutions to address these issues.”

OHCHR-Cambodia is also supporting the drafting of a new law on the management of prisons consistent with international human rights standards, and works to facilitate cooperation between Cambodian non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the prison authorities.

“We also raise difficult issues such as torture, corruption and food with the Government but do so in a manner that is not perceived as hostile. We discuss issues of concerns and we find solutions together,” says Christophe Peschoux, head of OHCHR-Cambodia.

 

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