The Cambodian Human Rights Committee (CHRC) is reviewing the case of a 14-year-old boy who was sentenced to four years in prison by the Tbong Khmum Provincial Court for attempted murder by poisoning. The boy’s mother said there was no real evidence presented in court against her son.
The investigation by the CHRC was initiated after the boy’s mother, Srey Kuch, wrote a letter to Prime Minister Hun Sen petitioning him to help her son because the court’s decision, she said, was unsubstantiated by any evidence and thus unfair in its outcomes.
“Please help my son. An injustice occurred when a black-hearted boss accused my 14-year-old son, Thorn Dina, of trying to poison him without any clear evidence to support the accusation. He was sentenced to five years in prison in the most unfair manner,” the letter read.
The mother and the boy are residents of Kokir commune’s Chamkar Thmei village in Memot district. Dina was arrested for the attempted murder charge on July 28 last year.
CHRC president Keo Remy then assigned a team to investigate the case. He said the team also met with another child in prison who is 14-year-old and the CHRC will take up the defence of the legal rights of both children.
CHRC deputy president Chin Malin told The Post on January 3 that the CHRC had investigated the case and was providing pro-bono defence counsel and had already filed an appeal on Dina’s behalf in accordance with legal procedures.
“We will defend him free of charge at the Court of Appeal and the team has also already filed a complaint. But the eventual decision will be made at the court’s discretion,” he said.
He also thanked the team for working pro-bono on their days off and the provincial court and police for their cooperation with requests for information.
Am Sam Ath, deputy director for rights group Licadho, said that providing competent legal help to convicts who may be innocent by investigating and intervening where appropriate – especially with child offenders – was an important role that the CHRC can help complement the Kingdom’s legal system.
“If this case is as the family described in their complaint and the child was charged and convicted without any solid evidence, then this is a serious violation of human rights and there must be an investigation,” he said.
He added that in cases where the CHRC team does not find credible evidence of the crimes as alleged by the court, the Ministry of Justice should review the decision.
“If the investigation finds that the decision is unfair and incorrect and there is not enough evidence, it is the competence of the justice ministry and the Supreme Council of the Magistracy to review the verdict and sentence to see whether it is in accordance with statutory guidelines,” he said.
The provincial court issued a statement on December 30 saying that when the trial concluded and they reviewed the evidence presented in court, the trial chamber determined that an older man named Ram Hov, 25, had sent the 14-year-old Dina with a chemical substance to poison the rice and bottled water of the victim.
“The facts showed the guilt of the two accused and the trial chamber sentenced Thorn Dina to four years in prison and ... Ram Hov to five years in prison,” the statement said.