OHCHR: ‘Mob justice’ cases since 2002 total 73

PHNOM PENH (The Phnom Penh Post/ANN) - There have been 73 cases of “mob justice”, since 2002 leaving 57 people dead and 16 wounded, according to an Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) report.

Since 2002, there have been 73 cases of “mob justice”, leaving 57
people dead and 16 wounded, according to an Office of the UN High
Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) report released on Thursday on
deaths, beatings and abuse carried out by the “people’s court” in
Cambodia.

However, the OHCHR said the numbers might be lower than actual
figures since cases were not always reported or recorded as linked to
“popular justice”.

The report said extrajudicial violence occurred due to a lack of
trust in the police, the court and prison systems, including perceived
corruption affecting investigations.

It said mob justice was a violation of human rights, such as the
right to life, a fair trial, the presumption of innocence and to be free
from torture. It is also a breach of the country’s Criminal Code.

Some of the solutions, the OHCHR said, included timely
intervention by the police or other local authorities, raising awareness
among the population that “popular justice” was a crime, and ensuring
effective investigation and prosecution in all cases of extrajudicial
violence as well as other crimes.

This could help build trust in the authorities and encourage people not to take justice into their own hands, the OHCHR said.

The report is the first prepared by the OHCHR since 2002 focusing on mob violence.

It was published to ascertain the causes of mob justice and provide
recommendations to specialist government officials to put a stop to
extrajudicial violence.

Rights group Adhoc spokesman Soeung Sen Karuna said to stop mob
violence, the government had to stamp out corruption in the court
system.

In particular, he said, the wealthy and powerful must face
prosecution when they commit offences, and such cases should be more
widely publicised so people can see the proof for themselves.

“So we should produce short video clips of all offences as we saw
recently when the UN produced some on social media. Everyone should take
part,” Sen Karuna said.

Cambodia Human Rights Committee spokesperson Chin Malin acknowledged
that extrajudicial violence was a sensitive issue in Cambodia, but that
the government had done a great deal to tackle the problem by educating
the people and strengthening the capacity of law enforcement officials.

“Past occurrences may have been because of a lack of comprehensive media coverage and law enforcement at the time,” he said.

Malin said the issues raised in the OHCHR report did not fully
explain the causes that led to mob justice, neither did they offer
workable mechanisms to deal with the issue or identify the stakeholders
who should be involved in its resolution.

The government alone could not be held accountable, he said, and
there had to be participation from civil society organisations and
opposition politicians.

Malin said opposition parties had used politics to fuel hatred and
discrimination against Vietnamese and Chinese nationals, causing unrest
and rebellion including extrajudicial violence.

He said a mob beating had left University of Cambodia English
professor Suy Sareth seriously injured early last year, and the incident
was influenced by the politicising of class hate and racial prejudice.

“For a clear example, look at Sareth’s case. When a road accident
occurred, people shouted that he was a Chinese or Vietnamese national
because he had a fair complexion. So it’s a case of politics fuelling
people’s anger to commit violence,” Malin said.

However, he stressed that since the Sareth incident, there had not
been any instances of mob violence and that the authorities had strictly
enforced the law by sending three people to prison and were looking for
four others who remain at large.

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