Sunday, 12 July 2015; News by Khmer Times/Igor Kossov and Srey Kumneth
PHNOM PENH (Khmer Times) – Convicted child molesters can put victims’ families in danger if they are not served with harsher sentences and mandatory deportation, say child protection groups.
Seventeen NGOs have blasted the release of Philippe Broaly, the former French judge and child-protection NGO director convicted of sex crimes against five boys last year. The French national had been sentenced to 14 months – five-and-a-half of which were suspended, and a fine of $5,500. He has served his time and was released July 2.
The release stirred fears among victims’ families, despite Mr. Broaly’s return to France while the appeal against his verdict is pending, according to the NGOs. Such leniency harms efforts to protect children, they added.
“There is no justice for the victims,” Samleng Seila, executive director of Action Pour Les Enfants (APLE), said in a statement.
Threats and Bribes
Mr. Broaly, a former judge, headed Enfants du Cambodge, a child welfare NGO, as well as Ecole Francaise de Sihanoukville. APLE described him as well-connected in Cambodia, helping the school to be recognized by the French Embassy.
While Mr. Broaly denied all charges against him, victims and NGOs said that his associates tried to bribe and intimidate victims’ families. Pou Sovonn, the father of two of the victims, told Khmer Times that Mr. Broaly’s affiliates tried to offer him $50 to drop the charges. Mr. Sovonn declined, asking for 1.2 million riel or $300. Mr. Broaly’s defense declined.
Mr. Sovonn said that a little later, a man resembling a soldier approached him asking him to sign a document agreeing to drop charges. When Mr. Sovonn refused again, the man threatened that he would do “something bad” to his family. Mr. Sovonn took the document but didn’t sign it, bringing it to the authorities instead.
Mr. Seila said that this is a common occurrence in child abuse cases and failing to deport convicted offenders puts victims’ families in danger. Mr. Broaly’s lawyer was not available for comment at press time.
An APLE workshop in February found that many judges support mandatory deportation. Nevertheless, 72 percent of convicted child molesters in APLE-launched cases were allowed to stay after finishing their prison terms.
Mr. Seila said that judges often decide whether to deport based on a cost-benefit analysis.
“If the offender was doing something good like running an NGO or making a big investment in the country, the judges might say that the benefit of keeping the defendant in the country outweighs deportation,” he said.
Dun Vibol, a lawyer who often works with accused pedophiles, said that judges are pressured to convict even in the face of weak evidence but can be persuaded to give lenient sentences. He added that most offenders don’t want to stay in Cambodia after being in jail here.
Mr. Seila said that many convicts would prefer to stay, given the risk of additional penalties in their home countries.