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UN rights experts urge Cambodia to set up body to monitor detention centers

The UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT) [official website] on Monday urged [press release] Cambodia to set up an independent national body to monitor detention centers in order to fulfill its international obligations under the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT) [text, PDF]. Cambodia ratified the protocol to the convention in 2007, which required Cambodia to establish what is known as a National Preventive Mechanism within one year. The SPT's announcement followed a five-day visit to Cambodia, during which SPT members visited detention facilities, including prisons, police stations and drug rehabilitation centers. SPT Chairperson Malcolm Evans commented that "Cambodia has now had several years to gain experience of what is needed" for establishing a National Preventive Mechanism. Cambodian authorities have received the preliminary observations of the visit, though the findings will not be published until the Cambodian government decides to publish them.

Cambodia's judicial system has also been under scrutiny for its handling of the Khmer Rouge tribunal, the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) [official website]. The ECCC, a hybrid court established in 2001 to try those accused of the Khmer Rouge regime's worst crimes, has been plagued by financing problems, resignations, strikes, counsel misconduct and judge disputes [JURIST reports], threatening the legitimacy of the court. Cambodia has argued that the trial of former Khmer Rouge leaders is a Cambodian issue and should not be a matter of international concern. Some have argued [JURIST op-ed] that localizing international justice may not work for countries like Cambodia, lacking in justice culture.

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