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Cambodia: Judicial System Criticized for Treatment of Rape Victims

(Dec. 2, 2015) On November 29, 2015, the Cambodian human rights nongovernmental organization Licadho released a report entitled Getting Away with It: The Treatment of Rape in Cambodia’s Justice System, as part of its 16-day initiative focused on gender-based violence.   (Latest Human Rights News, Licadho website (last visited Nov. 29, 2015).)  Licadho, which was founded in 1992, describes itself as “a national Cambodian human rights organization” and states that it is “at the forefront of efforts to protect civil, political, economic and social rights in Cambodia and to promote respect for them by the Cambodian government and institutions.”  (Getting Away with It: The Treatment of Rape in Cambodia’s Justice System, at 1, Licahdho website (Nov. 2015).)

According to the NGO, the justice system has failed to fully investigate and prosecute crimes of rape committed against women and children.  The report alleges that corruption, discriminatory attitudes based on gender, misinterpretation of the law, and lack of adequate resources have resulted in many rapists being under- or unpunished; of those cases settled by compensation, moreover, almost all involved payments to an official.  (Latest Human Rights News, supra.)

Licadho tracks information on reported rape cases in Cambodia, investigating 762 such cases between 2012 and 2014.  In about 70% of these cases, the victim was a minor.  One-third of the cases ended before trial and another third resulted in acquittal or in a flawed conviction (that is, a conviction for indecent assault rather than the more serious charge of rape, a sentence that was shorter than prescribed by the Criminal Code, or a fully or partially suspended sentence).  Of those cases with no conviction, more than half ended in compensation being paid to the victim for dropping their accusations.  (Lauren Crothers, Cambodia Judicial System Failing Rape Survivors: Report, ANADOLU AGENCY (Nov. 29, 2015).)  In a small percentage of cases, with child or adult victims, the person subjected to the attack ended up marrying the suspect.  This outcome has been attributed to attitudes toward women and the role their virginity plays in societal views on honor.  Licadho calls such marriages following attacks “shocking and disturbing.”  (Id.)

Naly Pilorge, the Director of Licadho, said of the situation in Cambodia:

Corruption is everywhere. … Every time the victim comes into contact with a public official, it is likely that they will have to make a corrupt payment and if the suspect has money he will probably be able to buy his freedom.  Sometimes it seems like the authorities don’t care about justice.  Instead, rape cases are just a way for them to make money.  (Phorn Bopha, Rights Group: Cambodia Rape Victims Denied Justice, VOICE OF AMERICA (Nov. 30, 2015).)

Government officials have not yet commented on the report. (Id.)