Under Article 32 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia, "Everybody shall have the rights to life, freedom, and personal security. Capital punishment is prohibited." Article 38 of the Constitution provides that:
The law prohibits all physical abuse of any individual. The law protects the life, honor and dignity of citizens.
No person shall be accused, arrested, or detained except in accordance with the law.
The coercion, physical ill-treatment or any other mistreatment which imposes additional punishment on a detainee or prisoner is prohibited. Persons who commit, participate in or conspire in such acts shall be punished according to the law.
Confessions obtained by physical or mental force shall not be admissible as evidence of guilt.
Article 37 allows the right to non-violent demonstration "in the framework of a law".
Article 41 provides that "Khmer citizens shall have freedom of ... assembly. No one shall exercise this right to infringe upon the rights of others, to affect the good traditions of the society, to violate public law and order and national security".
Cambodia's national police force is not addressed directly in the Constitution although Article 52 specifies that the government "shall preserve and protect the law and ensure public order and security".
1966 Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)
|ICCPR Optional Protocol 1||Signatory|
|1984 Convention against Torture (CAT)||State Party|
|Competence of CAT Committee to receive individual complaints||No|
|CAT Optional Protocol 1||State Party|
|1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court||State Party|
There is not yet a regional human rights treaty to which South-East Asian nations can adhere, although a non-binding human rights declaration was issued by the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 2013.
Police Use of Force
There do not appear to be detailed standards in Cambodian national law governing police use of force. Law enforcement is primarily the responsibility of the Royal Cambodian Police and the Royal Gendarmerie. Article 64 of the 2007 Code of Criminal Procedure, however, provides that all cases in which a judicial police officer has committed misconduct during the performance of his duty shall be reported by the Royal Prosecutor or the investigating judge to the General Prosecutor attached to the Court of Appeal.
In its third periodic report on the ICCPR, submitted in 2019, the authorities acknowledged that the institutional and legal framework building have not yet responded to the demands of law enforcement and that "the amendments or establishment of new laws are necessary in order to respond to the demands of the society".
Use of Force in Custodial Settings
The Code of Conduct and Discipline of Prison Guards prohibits every prison officer from threatening or humiliating a prisoner or, without the approval of a prison chief, disciplining a prisoner.
With respect to firearms, use is authorised in case of the escape of a prisoner, legitimate self-defence, or in case of emergency where it it is necessary to protect human lives or public or private property. This provision contravenes international law, which restricts use of firearms by law enforcement officials, including prison officers, to use against individuals who pose an imminent threat of death or serious injury or a proximate, grave threat to life, and ony where less injurious means are ineffective.
A number of human rights institutions and mechanisms may exercise oversight over the use of force by law enforcement officials. The Cambodian Human Rights Committee (CHRC) has the mandate to investigate and remedy complaints relating to human rights. The National Assembly Commission on Human Rights also serves as a mechanism by which citizens can voice their concerns and complaints with regard to human rights violations. It consists of seven members, all of whom are members of the National Assembly. The Senate Commission on Human Rights also monitors the implementation of human rights in Cambodia.
Views and Concluding Observations of United Nations Treaty Bodies
In 2015, the Human Rights Committee expressed its concern "about reports that no one has been held accountable for the extrajudicial killings, allegedly mainly perpetrated by the army, police and gendarmerie, in Cambodia since the 1991 Paris Peace Agreements". The Committee called on Cambodia to
investigate all allegations relating to the excessive use of force, especially the use of lethal force, by police and military personnel and ensure that the perpetrators are prosecuted and the victims adequately compensated.
It further urged Cambodia to
increase its efforts to systematically provide training to all security forces, including municipal security guards, on the use of force, especially in the context of demonstrations, taking due account of the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials.Human Rights Committee, Concluding Observations on Cambodia, 2015, paras. 11 and 12.
There is no regional human rights court with jurisdiction to review police use of force in Cambodia.
There is little evidence of police officers being held to account for excessive or indiscriminate use of force under domestic law.
In April 2021, Cambodian police defended punishing people by beating them using rattan canes for breaching coronavirus restrictions during a two-week lockdown aimed at containing a spike in infections. Cambodian human rights groups condemned the canings, saying there were better ways to ensure people protected themselves and others from the coronavirus.