PHNOM PENH (Khmer Times) – Rights group Licadho has welcomed an announcement from the Interior Ministry that conditions at prisons, social rehabilitation centers and drug rehabs will be improved to ensure that the rights of inmates, patients and others housed or confined at the centers will be respected.
However, the NGO – which monitors 18 of the country’s 28 prisons – said the August 7 announcement from Interior Minister Sar Kheng does not go far enough.
“We welcome the move by the ministry to take action to reduce human rights violations, but the ministry should look into other common problems in prisons,” said Am Sam Ath, technical coordinator at Licadho.
Mr. Sam Ath said prisons remain overcrowded, inmates do not get enough food to eat, and ventilation is insufficient.
He also said the announcement from the minister did not include a warning that officials who failed to heed it would be punished.
Ministry officials will make unannounced visits to the facilities to assess their compliance with human rights protections, the announcement says.
It provides few other details. Ministry officials did not respond to requests for further comment.
Cambodia has been a signatory to the UN’s Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment since 2007. The document calls for each signatory to “establish a system of regular visits undertaken by independent international and national bodies to places where people are deprived of their liberty, in order to prevent torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”
It also obligates signatories to establish an “independent national preventive mechanism” to ensure regular visits to detention facilities, including police stations, where torture is alleged to be common. Mr. Kheng is in charge of this.
It is supposed to ensure that enforcement officers will be assigned to make unannounced visits to facilities where people are detained.
Mr. Kheng’s August 7 announcement affirms that it will do so.
Human rights conditions at detention and correctional facilities in Cambodia are appalling, according to numerous reports by rights NGOs and media.
Torture and ill-treatment are widespread, according to the UN’s previous envoy on human rights in Cambodia, Surya P. Subedi. “I underscore in the strongest terms, that a victim of torture cannot plausibly be expected to seek justice from the very institution that allowed him or her to be tortured in the first place,” he wrote in a press statement announcing his final visit to the Kingdom earlier this year.