‘Slow process causes over­crowd­ing’

The Phnom Penh Post - - NATIONAL - Mech Dara

ON TUES­DAY, Min­is­ter of the In­te­rior Sar Kheng said slow ju­di­cial pro­ce­dures and an on­go­ing crack­down on drugs are caus­ing an in­crease in in­mates in Cam­bo­dian pris­ons, re­sult­ing in se­ri­ous con­cerns over pris­oner wel­fare.

His re­marks were made at a work­shop at Raf­fles Ho­tel Le Royal in Ph­nom Penh dis­cussing the roles and du­ties of the Na­tional Com­mit­tee Against Tor­ture, as well as the en­force­ment of the in­ter­na­tional hu­man rights stan­dards.

Sar Kheng said that the num­ber of in­mates in Cam­bo­dian pris­ons has in­creased steadily in re­cent years, with no sign of abat­ing. Cur­rently, 28 pris­ons across Cam­bo­dia house more than 30,000 in­mates, while Ph­nom Penh’s Prey Sar cur­rently holds 7,000 pris­on­ers but is de­signed to hold only 2,000. In ad­di­tion, there are 20,000 in­mates in Cam­bo­dian pris­ons wait­ing to go through ju­di­cial pro­ce­dures.

On top of slow ju­di­cial pro­ce­dures, Sar Kheng cited Cam­bo­dia’s on­go­ing crack­down on drugs as a con­tribut­ing fac­tor in the in­crease of in­mate num­bers.

“These two big chal­lenges are the main fac­tors caus­ing the pris­ons to be over­crowded, which hin­ders our ef­forts to im­prove their wel­fare and pro­vide nec­es­sary ser­vices at pris­ons through­out the King­dom,” he said.

“More­over, it hin­ders the Royal Gov­ern­ment’s ef­forts to fully en­force the UN Con­ven­tion Against Tor­ture.”

Sar Kheng said that to im­prove the wel­fare sit­u­a­tion for in­mates and com- ply with the UN Con­ven­tion against Tor­ture, the gov­ern­ment is work­ing to ex­pand and im­prove fa­cil­i­ties in the coun­try’s pris­ons, while the Min­istry of In­te­rior is also con­sid­er­ing mech­a­nisms to speed up ju­di­cial pro­ce­dures.

“The courts and gov­ern­ment in­sti­tu­tions will work to­gether on this is­sue for the greater so­cial good. We will ex­am­ine the back­log of 20,000 in­mates and see what is hin­der­ing ju­di­cial pro­ce­dures,” he said.

Deputy di­rec­tor-gen­eral of the In­te­rior Min­istry’s Gen­eral Prison De- part­ment Be Tea Leng said the prison depart­ment had re­stored old pris­ons to ease over­crowd­ing, as well as hav­ing built eight build­ings at Ph­nom Kra­vanh district’s Cor­rec­tional Cen­ter 4 ac­com­mo­dat­ing roughly 1,400 in­mates. He added that his depart­ment was await­ing fur­ther funds to com­plete the con­struc­tion of an ad­di­tional eight build­ings at Cor­rec­tional Cen­ter 4.

“We’ve fin­ished one phase, and we’re go­ing to build another eight build­ings . . . we will then take in­mates from other over­crowded pris­ons,” he said.

On Novem­ber 27, the Min­istry es­tab­lished a work­ing group to speed up ju­di­cial pro­ce­dures in an at­tempt to ad­dress the over­crowd­ing. The direc­tive named Sec­re­tary of State at the Min­istry of In­te­rior Sork Setha as head of the task force.

Ear­lier in Novem­ber, lo­cal NGO Li­cadho re­leased a re­port de­tail­ing how the un­der­use of bail had re­sulted in ex­ces­sively long pe­ri­ods of pre-trial de­ten­tion and sub­se­quent over­crowd­ing, neg­a­tively im­pact­ing de­tainee’s fam­i­lies and com­mu­ni­ties.

VIREAK MAI

Pris­on­ers sit in the court­yard of Prey Sar prison.

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