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PRISONS IN CAMBODIA
Case Study #1 - The following case study, based on victim testimony, illustrates some aspects of excessive pre-trial detention in Cambodia’s prisons.
An example of excessive pre-trial is the case of a young man aged 17 when he was arrested on March 30, 2000 and charged with robbery. The investigating judge concluded his investigation and sent the case to be assigned to a trial judge on October 9, 2000, yet the man was not brought to trial by Phnom Penh Municipal court until September 24, 2001, nearly 18 months after his date of arrest. This is in strict violation of Cambodian Prison Procedure 34.2, Section 5, which states that minors 13-18 years of age should not be held in pre-trial detention for more than one month, or two months if the minor is charged with a crime.

When the investigating judge and the trial judge were asked why the case took so long they both spoke in general terms and did not specifically talk about this case. They both mentioned a very heavy workload and lack of funds to bring prisoners to trial as the main reasons for excessive pre-trial detention; the prisons ask the court to pay $20 per pre-trial detainee that is sent to court. This is particularly so in CC1, CC2 and PJ, when inmates were transferred to trial in Phnom Penh Appeal Court and Supreme Court. The trial judge stressed that pre-trial detainees often required several trips to court – to be interviewed by a prosecutor, investigating judge and then to appear at trial – and that the courts can not pay for the transportation pretrial detainees have to wait for someone to pay; which in many cases would be the family of the accused.

The trial judge further said that if no one can pay for the transportation pre-trial detainees are tried in absentia. The investigating judge said that because of the heavy workload at the court it is often the case where one of the parties [or both] comes to discuss their case with the judge that is prioritized and solved first.

The question of who has the duty of transporting prisoners to their Court hearings is at times disputed. Prison directors sometimes state that this is not the responsibility of prison staff (who are under the Ministry of Interior), but of the courts (under the Ministry of Justice). However, at least one senior Ministry of Interior official has confirmed that it is the duty of his staff to transport prisoners to court. In reality, court officials do not transport prisoners, and the illegal practice of prison staff charging prisoners for their own transportation continues. If the prisoner does not have money to pay for his transportation, the Court will hear his/her case in absentia. This is in violation of rights enshrined in Cambodian and international law for accused persons to be present at court proceedings and to present a defense. Cambodian criminal procedure states at Article 10, Section 1: "The right to assistance of an attorney or counsel is assured for any person accused of a misdemeanour or crime."

Accused persons whose rights have already been breached by unlawfully long pretrial detention are therefore subjected to further violations if they are not allowed to attend their trials. When LICADHO staff interviewed judges about excessive pre-trial detention in CC1 and CC2, they offered three reasons: 1) lack of vehicle to transport prisoners; 2) scarcity of judges to hear cases; and 3) the particular nature of some cases – requiring complex criminal investigations. In Banteay Meanchey, judges cited scarcity of judges as the primary source of excessive detention.

FREEDOM IS A RIGHT OF ALL HUMAN BEINGS IN A WORLD WHERE LIFE IS VALUED AND PEACE MAY FINALLY BE A POSSABILITY
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All information is © Copyright 1997 - 2006 'Foreign Prisoner Support Service' unless stated otherwise - Click here for the legal stuff
All information is © Copyright 1997 - 2006 'Foreign Prisoner Support Service' unless stated otherwise - Click here for the legal stuff