Government of Cambodia rejects UN child rights monitors' concerns over drug detention and abuse. UNICEF no comment.

Date: 29 June 2011

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The Government of Cambodia has rejected the concerns of UN child rights monitors about arbitrary detention and child abuse related to drug detention centres in the country. The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child just days ago called for the immediate release of all children arbitrarily detained in the name of drug treatment or rehabilitation and the prompt investigation of all allegations of abuse.

These issues were subject of a Human Rights Watch report in 2010 which documented clear human rights violations against children.

According the the Phnom Penh Post, however:

The Ministry of Social Affairs spokesman Lem El Djurado said yesterday there was “no intention to abuse children” at drug rehabilitation centres, rejecting the UN allegations. 

“I think these criticisms lack basic evidence,” he said. “All centres are working in a humanitarian fashion and in cooperation with the parents of the children.”

El Djurado is wrong. The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child received considerable evidence from civil society and from UNICEF in the lead up to releasing its report. UNICEF and NGOs all met with the Committee in Geneva, as did the Cambodian government which was quizzed on this in person and in writing.

UNICEF had been accused of complicity in these abuses through funding the centres. After some hesitation, UNICEF did act and one of the centres which housed mostly children was closed down.

Given that UNICEF knows the issues, has taken action, and was in Geneva discussing them with the Committee on the Rights of the Child, the statement issued in response to the Committee’s findings is difficult to understand.

According to the Post:

Marc Vergara, spokesman for UNICEF’s Cambodia office, said yesterday that he had not seen the report from the Committee on the Rights of the Child and could not comment on the issue. 

This is at best unhelpful and displays a disconnect between UNICEF (whose work is based on the Convention on the Rights of the Child) and the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, which oversees the implementation of said treaty.

But really – does one have to read a report to say all child abuse and arbitrary detention of children is wrong and should be ended?

See also: Media Release - Torture in Drug Treatment Detention

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