Phnom Penh: On 28th of March, 2019, APLE, with support of Bread for The World and Terre des Hommes Netherlands, in partnership with Liberty Shared and the Cambodian National Police, delivered a workshop named “Child Friendly Practice in Justice Proceedings to Protect Child Victims and Witnesses of Sexual Abuse and Exploitation”.
The event, carried out as a response to the increasing demand of child-centric and child-friendly police investigations and court proceedings, took place at The Sokha Hotel in Phnom Penh, and counted with the presence of 95 participants coming from diverse backgrounds, such as NGO workers, government officials, police officers, which include police and court officials, local and international NGO staff members, representatives from the Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Women Affairs, Ministry of Social Affairs, Anti-Human Trafficking Police, among others.
At the opening, words from APLE’s Executive Director, Mr. Seila Samleang, H.E Pol Thiethei, Director of the Anti-Human Trafficking/Juvenile Protection Department, and H.E Chou Buneng, State Secretary of the Interior Ministry emphasised the importance of child-friendly procedures at all stages of the criminal proceedings.
During the morning block, Mr. Lim Vanna, UNICEF Child Protection Specialist and Ms. Kristin Rosella, Senior Legal Counsel from Liberty Shared, delivered insights about child-friendly practices that have worked in Cambodia, Europe, U.S.A and other countries in Asia, while speakers from the Bar Association of Cambodia shared their experiences with child-friendly practices in Cambodia and New Zealand.
The morning discussions led to the identification of opportunities, challenges and gaps for implementation of these practices in Cambodia, as well as further steps for improvement.
After the provided lunch at the venue, participants learned about successes and challenges of the child-friendly practices in building the criminal cases to proceed in court from Mr. Tan Seng Narong, prosecutor attached to the Court of Appeal. Within the identified challenges was the economic growth of the country, which, although mostly positive for all areas of the social environment of Cambodia, attracts a large number of foreign offenders. Another identified challenge was lack of awareness and understanding of child-friendly procedures, as well as the possible re-traumatisation of child victims during medical examination. This last challenge presented also raised the discussion about its possible mitigation, which considered including medical doctors in charge of forensic examinations in the trainings about child-friendly practices.
The afternoon block of the workshop also held an open panel discussion with all the speakers, in which they responded questions from the audience related to finding solutions and ways to implement child-friendly practices in both police investigations and court proceedings.
One of the most important takeaways emerged from a concern raised about the limited time for investigations, which according to the Cambodian law, should be no longer than 48 hours after the case is filed before the court. The Prosecutor, Mr. Tan Seng Narong explained that the police can start the investigation process at any time, and then proceed to file the case to the court once evidence is collected. The awareness on this possibility can remove stress and pressure from police officers, allowing them more time to investigate cases within child-friendly standards.
The workshop concluded with remarks and reflections from APLE’s Executive Director, Mr. Seila Samleang.