Pardons allowed on five holidays

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Inmates are transported to Preysar prison in Phnom Penh last year. Hean Rangsey

King Norodom Sihamoni has issued a royal decree granting the government’s request for sentence reduction and pardoning of inmates during five of the country’s annual public holidays.

Consisting of six chapters and 19 articles, the January 12 royal decree covers inmates who have been convicted of crimes and have already begun serving their sentence.

The decree identifies five public holidays each year during which the King will grant requests for pardons or sentence reductions for inmates whose petition has been made through official channels and deemed worthy.

The holidays include January 7 Victory Day, Khmer New Year, Visak Bochea, Independence Day and Water Festival.

“Sentence reduction and pardoning of inmates is carried out to facilitate the integration of inmates into society or for humanitarian purposes. Sentence reductions and pardons can only be given to those who have been convicted and sentenced by definitive verdicts or judgments,” the decree states.

Sentence reductions and pardons can only be enforced if the inmates fulfil certain required conditions such as expressing contrition for their crimes, maintaining good behaviour by obeying prison rules, and participating in educational or vocational training programmes while incarcerated.

Article 6 of the royal decree states that reductions or pardons for humanitarian purposes may apply to cases where inmates are elderly, pregnant, suffering from chronic illness, mentally ill or physically or mentally disabled as medically certified by doctors and recognised by a ministry with competencies relevant to the inmate’s circumstances.

The decree also specifies that sentences can only be reduced for inmates who have served at least one-third of the total sentence meted out by the courts and that inmates who have received a life sentence must serve a minimum of 10 years before they become eligible.

The royal decree places further limitations on sentence reductions by limiting the amount a sentence can be reduced each time a request is granted.

Sentences of one to five years may only be reduced by a period of three months.

Sentences of five to 10 years may only be reduced by a maximum of six months and sentences lasting from 10 to 20 years can only be reduced by nine months or less, while 20-30 year sentences can only be reduced by one year or less.

Life sentences can only be reduced to 30 years, initially.

Prior to this royal decree, the reduction and pardoning of sentences for inmates took place on just four public holidays: Khmer New Year, Visak Bochea, Independence Day and Water Festival.

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The government spokesman Phay Siphan. Heng Chivoan

When asked about the addition of sentence reductions and pardons on the January 7 Victory Day holiday, government spokesman Phay Siphan said January 7 is a day of extreme importance and historical significance for Cambodia because the event marks the resurrection of the Cambodian people, nation, and culture after what was perhaps the darkest period in all of Cambodia’s history.

“This day means rebirth [of the nation]. The things we have today are the fruits from the tree of life planted on January 7. The resurrection of the Cambodian people is valued as a source of inspiration to all of humanity,” he said.

Cambodian Institute for Democracy president Pa Chanroeun applauded the use of sentence reductions and pardons as it is important to give inmates hope for rehabilitation if they have strived to correct themselves. He noted that it would also help ease prison overcrowding.

“I would like to request that inmates be selected and their petitions granted in a manner that is transparent, just and fair to all applicants. Inmates who have behaved in an exemplary manner while incarcerated should be given the most consideration for sentence reductions and pardons,” he said.