A team from the Cambodian Human Rights Committee (CHRC) has shared details of the laws surrounding human rights – and the rights of detainees – to prison officials and law enforcement officers, and also examined the living conditions of prisoners at Correctional Centre I in Phnom Penh. The team intends to inspect all prisons and correction centres across the country, and strengthen cooperation in promoting and protecting the rights of detainees.
CHRC deputy chief Chin Malin, who led his team to the April 26 meeting with the General Department of Prisons (GDP), told The Post on April 27 that the CHRC’s mission was to protect the rights and freedoms of all citizens.
“We have two mechanisms. The CHRC team inspects all prisons and correctional centres in the capital and provinces on a regular basis, as least once a year or more. We look at the living conditions of detainees and educate and disseminate laws pertaining to human rights and the rights of prisoners to the authorities. We also examine any cases of their rights being violated, with torture, for example,” he said.
He added that the other mechanism was to respond to complaints, which the CHRC received from detainees and their relatives, civil society organisations (CSOs) or a UN team working on the rights of prisoners.
“We always examine the complaints. If necessary, we conduct direct investigations and decide whether the complaints have any basis in fact. If there are genuine issues, we work to resolve them, while protecting and promoting the rights of detainees,” he said.
He added that at the meeting, he made mention of several problems relating to human rights that were identified so the GDP could establish mechanisms that would solve the problems.
“We also discussed how to improve our cooperation to ensure the efficiency of our work in prisons and to ensure the regular promotion and protection of the rights of detainees,” Malin said.
Am Sam Ath, deputy director of rights group LICADHO, was of the opinion that examining the situation of detainees and strengthening cooperation was good, but he called for ways to address the problem of overcrowding in prisons and the living conditions of the detainees.
“What is important is that mechanisms to solve the problem of overcrowding in prisons should be established. There are many issues arising from this, including hygiene and health issues and shortages of water, food and medicine. These are problems that require urgent solutions,” he said.
He added that many detainees or former detainees have brought up these issues, but they had not been seriously addressed. More importantly, with regard to the Juvenile Justice Act, he observed that prisons across the country have not yet addressed the concerning issue of minor detainees being assimilated with adults.
“We have just established a juvenile rehabilitation centre in Kandal province’s Kandal Stung district, which received just 50 minors as a trial. It is clear that minor detainees’ situations should be looked at across the country,” he said.
Sam Ath added that what CSOs had often said was that they wanted state institutions to address the situation. They were not looking to blame anybody for prison conditions, but had the sole purpose of wanting to improve conditions.
Malin said the purpose of the meeting, in addition to addressing any problems that were identified, was to understand recent developments in prison reform so the CHRC could provide informed responses to national and international partners, CSOs and the UN – which had often made “false” allegations.
“They often received false information from certain CSOs which had political affiliations,” he said.