Groups say torture 'widespread' in Cambodia

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Phnom Penh (Rasmei Kampuchea Daily/ANN) - Human rights groups marked International Day in Support of Victims of Torture yesterday with a joint statement saying that torture was still "widespread" in Cambodia.

The statement acknowledged that Cambodia ratified the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in 1992. "But torture remains flagrant and widespread," it said.

Thun Saray, chairman of the Cambodian Human Rights Acting Committee and president of Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association, said there was a "lack of progress" towards eliminating torture in Cambodia.

Pung Chhiv Kek, president of Cambodia League for the Promotion and Defence of Human Rights, said the problem was "compounded by the inability or unwillingness of the judiciary to prosecute torture crime."

"Most victims and witnesses fear repercussion, so they do not seek legal recourse. And the danger of repercussion is very indeed real," the Licadho president said.

Meanwhile, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay called for the punishment of those who use torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

"The use of torture is far from over," she said in a statement coinciding with International Day in Support of Victims of Torture and the 25th anniversary of the UN Convention Against Torture.

"Every day, the various UN bodies that deal with torture, including my office, continue to receive harrowing reports of torture in detention, whether to force confessions or to intimidate those critical of the powers that be.

"The victims of torture are, more often than not, ordinary people who belong to already vulnerable sectors of society. Perhaps most shockingly of all, even children are not spared," she said.

"I call on all states to live up to the pledges they have made to prevent, prosecute and punish the use of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment."

Pillay noted that torture was illegal "under any circumstances, with no exceptions," urging states that have not passed laws criminalising torture to do so urgently. Those that have such laws should "redouble their efforts to ensure it is fully implemented," she said.

"There also needs to be a more concerted effort to provide victims and their families with the necessary support and reparations to alleviate, at least slightly, the profound and lasting damage that has been done to them."

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