The Ministry of Justice is to implement a pilot project involving community sentences to reduce pretrial detention and prison overcrowding.
UN Rapporteur for Human Rights in Cambodia Rhona Smith expressed concern at the increasing number of pretrial detentions during a meeting with Minister Ang Vong Vathana yesterday.
“I raised what was of concern about the progress of reform and what is actually happening,” Ms Smith said after the meeting.
Ministry undersecretary of state Chin Malin said the community service pilot project would take place in Battambang province.
“There is now a feasibility study and our team is conducting research on the issue,” Mr Malin said.
The ministry and the UN are working together to set up legal frameworks and mechanisms to implement community sentences.
And the UN will help to disseminate information to the public about the pilot project so that convicts are not beaten or killed by mob justice while working on community projects. Offenders would be given work in the community, under supervision by officials.
He said community sentences were a modern idea but the public did not yet know enough about them.
People who saw someone being convicted and released to work in the community two or three days later would think there was something improper about the court process, he said.
Mr Malin repeated Ms Smith’s remarks praising progress in the judiciary system. Especially positive points were on the non-custodial measures to reduce pretrial detention and the registration of case files through an IT database, he said.
He said Ms Smith would raise all the positive points with the UN. The UN would help with technical aspects of the law on surrogacy, on which she has conducted research.
Am Sam Ath, managing monitor for rights group Licadho, offered congratulations on the community sentences and said Licadho encouraged court officials to consider which sentences were suitable for bail.
“We want the ministry to implement community service in all provinces, not just the pilot project in Battambang province.”