Magazine article New Internationalist

Justice for Juveniles

Magazine article New Internationalist

Justice for Juveniles

Article excerpt

Cambodia's long-awaited juvenile justice law looks set to be adopted within months, following the draft's approval by Prime Minister Hun Sen in April.

More than 700 minors are currently incarcerated in the country's overcrowded prisons, an estimated 40 per cent of them on pre-trial detention. While some face serious charges, the majority are held for drug-related offences and minor misdemeanours.

The age of criminal responsibility in Cambodia is 14, yet its penal code lacks specific laws addressing juvenile offenders. Instead, they have been dealt the same legal hand as adults: imprisoned with them in cells, facing sentences of up to 10 years.

'Because they receive no education inside, they learn from other adult prisoners,' explains Op Vibol, programme manager at the NGO Legal Aid Cambodia, who has worked closely with authorities on the draftlaw. 'So we often see that children are imprisoned for small crimes, but when released they commit serious offences. …

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