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Courts Still Failing Rape Victims, Study Finds

May Titthara / Khmer Times No Comments Share:

The father of an 11-year-old girl who was raped by an immigration police officer five years ago is far from surprised by a report by rights group Licadho that says Cambodia’s judicial system and police force are failing victims of the crime.

The father, whose name cannot be released because his daughter was underage at the time of the crime, points out that the perpetrator continues to work for the police force despite being found guilty of the crime in April of this year. Kan Sophat was sentenced to five years in prison by the Sihanoukville Municipal Court and ordered to pay 40 million riel (about $10,000) in compensation, but has appealed the sentence. 

“He is still free and works for the police. He has not served his sentence,” the father of the victim said, adding that he believes corruption is the reason the convicted rapist did not spend a single night in jail. “How else can he stay free like this?” 

“The court has already issued a verdict. I want it to take action instead of letting him remain free. I keep asking why they don’t detain him in prison,” said the father who will take the case to the country’s airwaves today when he speaks to Women’s Media Center on 102 MHz at 9 am. 
The broadcast will also discuss the report “Getting Away with It: The Treatment of Rape in Cambodia’s Justice System,” released by Licadho yesterday.

The report is based on 762 cases of rape and attempted rape submitted to the rights group’s office in Phnom Penh as well as its offices in 12 provinces between 2012 and 2014.  

The 24-page report identifies corruption as one of the factors behind the failure of the judicial system to investigate and prosecute men suspected of raping women and children.

“Every time the victim comes into contact with a public official, it’s likely that they will have to make a corrupt payment and if the suspect has money he will probably be able to buy his freedom,” Licadho director Naly Pilorge said in a press release accompanying the release of the report. “Sometimes it seems like the authorities don’t care about justice. Instead, rape cases are just a way for them to make money.

“Corruption is everywhere,” she said.

Of the cases in the report, 225 cases involved women 18 or over, and 537 involved victims  under 18. Of the latter, 58 (about 10 percent) were under six, 181 (32 percent) were six to 11 years of age, and 328 (58 percent) were aged 12-17. 

More than half of the cases, 424, were closed by the time the report was written, with about one-third of them resulting in a conviction and sentence that complied with the law. Another third ended before trial and the final third ended with a conviction that was in some way flawed, or with an acquittal, according to the report.

Those that ended before trial include cases where the victim received compensation, where the suspect married the victim, rape within marriage, and cases where the complaint was dropped, the report said.

The report found that cases that ended with a “flawed” conviction were flawed in different ways, although they were alike in that “corruption” was believed to have played a role in either suspended sentences, lesser charges or sentences which were shorter than that called for by the law.

In almost all of “flawed” cases – from those that ended with compensation negotiated at the police station to those that went all the way to trial – corruption was likely, the report said. 

“The government must take steps to ensure that all rape cases are properly investigated and that any obstacles preventing them from proceeding to trial are removed,” the report recommended. This must include “vigorous prosecution of all cases of sexual violence regardless of the rank, influence or wealth of the perpetrator,” it said.

Kim Santepheap and Yin Malin, spokesmen for the Ministry of Justice, could not be reached for comment.

“Getting Away with It: The Treatment of Rape in Cambodia’s Justice System” notes that its findings are similar to those in a report Licadho released more than a decade ago. “It is particularly disturbing to note that, while over 11 years have passed since Licadho’s last report on rape, the issues uncovered have not changed and there seems to have been very little improvement in the situation.”

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