UN anti-torture group urges Cambodia to create independent body to monitor prisons

16 December 2013

Cambodia has fallen behind in obligations it made to monitor the treatment of prisoners, a United Nations committee to prevent torture said today, urging Phnom Penh to set up an independent national body to monitor detention centres.

Cambodia ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT) in 2007 and should have established what is known as a National Preventive Mechanism within one year.

“Cambodia has now had several years to gain experience of what is needed, and the time has come for the country to fulfil its international commitments by establishing an independent National Preventive Mechanism,” said the chairperson of the UN Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture (SPT), Malcolm Evans. “This is a vital first step on the road towards preventing torture and ill-treatment in detention.”

During the five-day tour, Mr. Evans, accompanied by SPT members Lowell Patria Goddard, June Lopez and Milos Jankovic, made unannounced visits to places of detention, including prisons, police stations and drug rehabilitation centres.

They met Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng and other Government officials and members of an inter-ministerial body currently in charge of monitoring detention centres, as well as non-governmental organizations.

The delegation presented its preliminary observations to the Cambodian authorities at the end of this visit, but said that the findings will remain confidential until the Government decides to publish them.

“We have found the visit very enlightening and believe it lays the groundwork for future progress in improving the treatment of detainees in Cambodia,” said Mr. Evans.

The role of the Subcommittee is to prevent and eliminate torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and punishment of detainees.

“The key to preventing torture and ill-treatment lies in building constructive relations with the State concerned, and its guiding principles are cooperation and confidentiality,” the Committee has said.

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