Graham Cleghorn….victim of injustice in Cambodia?

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Womens and Childrens Rights Group
June 6 2006

Press Release
Submitted By : Cambodian Women's Crisis Center ( 2006-06-07 13:47:05

The Cambodian Women's Crisis Center (CWCC), Cambodian Defender Project (CDP), Legal Aid of Cambodia (LAC), Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee (CHRAC), CAMBOW Committee, Convention on Elimination of Discrimination Against Women Committee (CEDAW), and NGO Coalition to Address Sexual Exploitation of Children in Cambodia (COSECAM) with 144 members wish to call to the attention to a grave matter which has developed due to the hearing by the Appeals Court in the case of Bart Lauwaert and Clint Rex Betteridge, who was convicted and sentenced by the provincial court of Siem Reap to twenty years incarceration for the offense of sexual abuse of minor children and young women in Cambodia.

Bart Lauwaert filed an appeal hearing which was opened at the Court of Appeal on 1st June 2006. Council of Judgment will render a final decision on 9th June 2006. We are seriously concerned about:

1. False Testimony: the reports [1] [1] of statements provided by one alleged victim, Hoeung Kieng, said the CWCC 'detained me at their center for six months and mentally tortured me by not letting us out of the compound.' "This statement was published in Mainichi Daily News, June 1, 2006 and www.inquisition21.com . Note that the name of Hoeung Kieng does not appear in any of the documents reflecting the initial charges/offenses against Bart Lauwaert and his co-defendant, Clint Rex Betteridge. Yet, this young woman has now come forward to accuse CWCC of kidnapping and detaining her, mentally torturing her and refusing to let her leave the shelter. CWCC would like to inform the press and the public that Hoeung Kiang has never even been a client of CWCC; thus, her claims of false imprisonment and mental torture are a blatant lie on her part.

2. Lack of Participation of Relevant Institutions: the Appeal Hearing was held with the absence of all lawyers of the girl victims. Police who is working on the case were not invited to join the Appeal Hearing. Much more wondering is the fact that the lawyers were not informed whether they would be removed from the case. Moreover, the lawyer of Cambodian Defender Project who is continually requested to represent this case was not invited to join in the hearing.

The lawyers of CWCC, CDP and LAC strongly state that their reputations have been wrongly damaged regarding allegations that the lawyers promised victims money in exchange for testimony against the defendant. The facts based on the complaint submission with police, victims and their guardians demanded punishment and compensation from the defendant in their original complaints, prior to the time CWCC and lawyers had any involvement with these victims. In addition, parents and relatives of the victims wrongly believe that lawyers received 100,000USD compensation money ordered by Siem Reap Court due to the victims. CWCC and lawyers involved in this case have never received any money which was intended for the victims in this case.  

The State and Justice Ministry have a duty to ensure that children are free from sexual exploitation and abuse. The police of Siem Reap province made their best efforts to arrest perpetrators and refer victims to NGOs for social and legal services. CWCC, CDP and LAC have provided these social and legal services; thus, these NGOs were seriously attacked by ring pedophile/syndicates for their best efforts to protect/empower women and children rights.

Therefore, we are the undersigned non-governmental organizations and women and children rights committees provide our full support for their best works and continue to join with the Royal Government of Cambodia to eradicate the abuse/violation of women's and children's rights and call for the Court of Appeal for the following immediate action:

1.       To undertake an urgent investigation of Hoeung Kieng and her statement as recorded in the press.

2.       To take all testimony and evidence including statement made from the police who were involved in the case, statement of lawyers, statement of representatives of provincial court of Siem Reap, statement made by victims, and collected evidence from the raid.

3.       To take into consideration the reasons led girl victims and their families changed their testimonies.

4.       The Court of Appeals next hearing on this matter shall include adequate notice to and the presence of legal representatives from CWCC, CDP, LAC and other relevant NGOs.

5.       Due to the large amount of erroneous information spread among the public in the case, we urge the Court of Appeals and the Prosecutor to fully investigate all statements made by the parties or representatives of parties, the alleged involvement of a foreigner and nationals who attempted to tamper with witnesses' testimony, and any other irregularities, to seek the truth in this matter.

We suggest that the Royal Government of Cambodia strengthen its safety provision to girl victims and their families and institutions providing women's and children's right protection. More importantly, we suggest that the Royal Government of Cambodia to crack down any acts of obstruction of justice.

Finally, CWCC, CDP, LAC, CHRAC, CEDAW Committee, CAMBOW Committee, and COSECAM are hopeful that the Court of Appeals will take into consideration these recommendations/suggestions in order to ensure justice in this case.

 

Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee.

CEDAW Committee.
CAMBOW Committee.
COSECAM..
For further information, please kindly contact:
Ms. Oung Chanthol, Executive Director of CWCC             012 84 05 07

Mr. Sok Sam Oeurn, Executive Director of CDP                012 90 11 99

Mr. Ouk Van Deth, Executive Director of LAC                  012 85 96 91