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UN torture prevention group urges Cambodia to set up independent body to monitor treatment of prisoners

GENEVA (16 December 2013) - The United Nations Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT) has urged Cambodia to set up an independent national body to monitor the treatment of people in detention, in line with its treaty obligations.

The SPT members issued their call at the end of a five-day follow-up visit to Cambodia, during which they made various unannounced visits to places of detention, including prisons, police stations and drug rehabilitation centres.

Cambodia ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT) in 2007 and should have established what is known as a National Preventive Mechanism within one year.

“Cambodia has now had several years to gain experience of what is needed, and the time has come for the country to fulfil its international commitments by establishing an independent National Preventive Mechanism,” said SPT Chairperson Malcolm Evans. “This is a vital first step on the road towards preventing torture and ill-treatment in detention.”

During their mission, from 9-13 December, the SPT delegation met government officials and members of an inter-ministerial body currently in charge of monitoring detention centres, as well as non-governmental organizations. The SPT delegation was able to meet Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng and welcomed this as an indication of how seriously the Cambodian Government takes its obligations under OPCAT.

The visit was aimed at determining whether the situation of detainees had improved since the SPT’s last visit in 2009. The delegation presented their confidential preliminary observations to the Cambodian authorities at the end of this visit.

“Our findings must remain confidential until the Cambodian Government decides to publish them. We have found the visit very enlightening and believe it lays the groundwork for future progress in improving the treatment of detainees in Cambodia,” said Mr Evans.

The SPT’s role is to prevent and eliminate torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and punishment of detainees. It has a mandate to visit all States that are parties to OPCAT and to make recommendations to the authorities to provide for effective safeguards against torture and ill-treatment of persons deprived of their liberty. For the SPT, the key to preventing torture and ill-treatment lies in building constructive relations with the State concerned, and its guiding principles are cooperation and confidentiality.

The SPT delegation was composed of: Chairperson Malcolm Evans, Lowell Patria Goddard, June Lopez and Milos Jankovic.

ENDS

Background: The Optional Protocol on the Prevention of Torture has to date been ratified by 70 countries. At the end of a country mission, the SPT communicates its recommendations and observations to the State by means of a confidential report, and if necessary to NPMs. States parties are encouraged to request that the SPT makes these reports public.

Find out more about the Optional Protocol: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cat/opcat/index.htm

To arrange an interview with the SPT, please contact: Yulia Babuzhina: +855 23 216 342/ ybabuzhina@ohchr.org or Jakob Schneider: +41 22 917 9301/ jschneider@ohchr.org

For media inquiries, please contact Liz Throssell, +41 (0) 22 917 9434/ ethrossell@ohchr.org

Places of detention visited:
Correctional Center 3 (Kompong Cham)
Correctional Center 2 for women and juveniles (Phnom Penh)
Posenchey District Police Inspectorate (Phnom Penh)
Cham Chao Police Post (Phnom Penh)
Khan Daun Administrative Police Post (Phnom Penh)
Chamkamon District Police inspectorate (Phnom Penh)
Orgkas Khnom Drug Rehabilitation Center (Phnom Penh)
Former Social Welfare Centre Prey Speu
Immigration Centre of Phnom Pen