Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday urged a newly-formed legal team tasked with helping impoverished women in prison to pay special attention to those being placed in pre-trial detention without a lawyer.
Speaking at a women’s day event, Mr Hun Sen said the legal aid team led by the government’s chief lawyer Ky Tech will work closely with the Women’s Affairs and Justice Ministries to address the concerns of poor women being put in pre-trial detention.
“Poor women have been placed in pre-trial detention without a trial because they could not afford to pay for a lawyer. This is not their fault, but ours,” he said. “I must take responsibility for that. I must pay for them.”
Last month, Mr Hun Sen assigned Mr Tech to lead the team known as ‘Samdech Hun Sen Legal Team’ with a budget of some $500,000.
Having discussed the issue with Mr Tech, Mr Hun Sen said that he hoped his legal team of volunteers will be able to provide legal aid to the impoverished women soon.
Mr Hun Sen also asked the legal team to cooperate with all relevant state institutions to look into the possibility of pardoning and reducing the sentences for some prisoners at other times in addition to national holidays.
“The law allows the Prime Minister to make request for pardons, so it is important to ensure that female inmates are being taken care of and deserve a special pardon,” he said.
Mr Tech said the team is now comprised of 67 lawyers, with two based in each province and six in Phnom Penh.
He noted that another six lawyers would be on standby to help their colleagues across the country when needed.
“For female inmates who have already been convicted, it’s beyond our authority,” he said. “We can only assist poor women whose cases are still proceeding.”
Mr Hun Sen also asked the Women’s Affairs and Justice Ministries to speed up their work in reviewing the cases of all female inmates in all prisons across the Kingdom.
Sor Sineth, deputy chief of the Legal Department at the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, yesterday said the ministry has assigned a group to liaise with the Justice Ministry and relevant authorities.
“We are now reaching out to authorities across the country to find out the total number of female inmates and draft possible conditions for pardon requests or having their sentence reduced,” she said. “We are working so hard on this.”
Justice Ministry spokesman Chin Malin said the ministry recently requested all provincial courts to report the number of female inmates and be sympathetic to vulnerable group of women in court cases under the principle of humanity when these women encounter problems.
“We also push the courts to speed up the investigation in cases that involve poor women, so that they would no longer have to be placed in pre-trial detention,” he said. “It is important to touch on many factors before we can make a decision on who deserves a pardon or sentence reduction.”