A senior police official on Sunday challenged a local human rights group’s accusation that members of Cambodia’s police force routinely torture criminal suspects in their custody.
Torture by police has become an “all too common” method of extracting confessions from suspects, punishing them or extorting money for their release, the group, Licadho, said in a statement to mark the U.N. International Day in Support of Victims of Torture on Sunday.
“If Licadho has enough evidence about any specific case of police torturing suspects, they should show it to us. I will take tough action against those policemen,” said Heng Pov, police chief for the capital Phnom Penh.
He said there is no torture by police under his jurisdiction, but that he doesn’t know about possible abuses in the provinces.
Khieu Sopheak, spokesman for the Interior Ministry, which oversees the police, was not available for comment Sunday.
Last year, Sau Phan, the former deputy police chief, said torturing suspects was sometimes necessary to get them to confess.
More than 60 prison inmates interviewed by Licadho in 2004 said they had been tortured in police custody, the group said in the statement.
However, it was difficult to assess the real extent of the abuse as the inmates were afraid to talk openly in the presence of prison guards, Licadho said.
Kek Galabru, the group’s president, called on the government to establish an independent body to investigate police torture.
She said such action was needed to end the abuse and “to ensure that people are not convicted on the basis of confessions beaten out of them.”