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CHRC marks notable achievements in providing free legal aid

Taing Vida / Khmer Times Share:
Pech Sonet (left) speaks to officials. CHRC

The Cambodian Human Rights Committee  on Tuesday underlined three notable achievements made by its legal team, which it created last year to provide free legal services to the underprivileged.

In a report it released during its annual conference, the CHRC said its legal team had noted three big cases it had successfully handled.

The first case cited involved inmate Pech Sonet, a woman convicted of multiple charges including a robbery which claimed the life of her husband. She was three months pregnant with a son when she first entered prison.

Under the CHRC’s legal support, the Appeal Court on September commuted her prison sentence from 166 to 19 years of imprisonment.

The second case, said the CHRC report, happened in early January which covered the alleged custodial torture and death of a villager who was detained during a land dispute protest in Banteay Meanchey province.

Following an investigation conducted by CHRC, two Banteay Meanchey military police officers were found to be involved in the incident.

The third case revolved around the death of a baby in Prey Sar prison’s Correctional Centre II arlier this year after the infant succumbed to a thighbone fracture, pneumonia and severe malnutrition.

The report noted the infant’s mother had been released last week after the CHRC provided free legal assistance to her

CHRC president Keo Remy said in the conference that among all achievements made by the team during the past year, the aforementioned cases received most praise from the public.

“With these accomplishments, I would like to encourage the committee’s legal team and members to continue fulfilling their duties in order to achieve social justice in the society,” he said.

According to CHRC spokesman Chin Malin, the legal team has received more than 100 complaints but noted that only 95 percent of the cases were related to human rights violations.

“The team has provided free legal advice and consultations to many impoverished people who have suffered from human rights violations. So far, we have received favourable responses for the initiative,” said Mr Malin. “We also offered free legal support for female inmates. Some had their sentences reduced while others were released on bail. There were still cases which were rejected by the court.”

The legal team this year, he added, will provide legal education programmes to students and villagers, as well as consultations via mobile phone and face-to-face discussions.

Last month, Prime Minister Hun Sen tasked the government lawyer  Ky Tech to form a legal team under his direct supervision to provide free legal aid to impoverished women in the Kingdom.

Mr Tech could not be reached for comment on the team’s progress.

Rights group Licadho senior investigator Am Sam Ath yesterday welcomed the move of the government and the CHRC’s legal teams but said the mechanism for providing free legal support must be strictly and transparently implemented in order to ensure its efficiency.

“If we look at the big picture, this is just a small achievement from the CHRC and the government. I urge them to put in more efforts to improve the justice system in the Kingdom,” he said.

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