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Cablegate: Cambodia: Baffling Release of Convicted Pedophile

VZCZCXRO0116
PP RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH
DE RUEHPF #0628/01 2130932
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 310932Z JUL 08
FM AMEMBASSY PHNOM PENH
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
INFO RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 PHNOM PENH 000628

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR EAP/MLS, G/TIP, AND DRL
USAID FOR ASIA BUREAU

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM KWMN KJUS CB
SUBJECT: CAMBODIA: BAFFLING RELEASE OF CONVICTED PEDOPHILE

REF: A. PHNOM PENH 545
B. PHNOM PENH 179

1. (SBU) Summary: In a disturbing move, the Sihanoukville
Municipal Court on July 21 released a convicted Russian
national, Nikita Belov, after suspending his already-light
three year sentence on misdemeanor charges of indecent acts
against minors. As reported in Post's quarterly TIP report
covering January to March 2008 (Ref A), Belov was arrested on
January 8 on charges of debauchery involving three boys aged
7 to 13. Belov had been in pre-trial detention for six
months and 15 days when the Sihanoukville Municipal Court
convicted and sentenced him to three years in prison but
suspended his sentence later that same day. He was
reportedly released on July 23 and was spotted around
Sihanoukville until July 28, after which he has not been
seen. There is strong reason to believe that Belov has left
the country; however, TIP crime investigation NGO Action Pour
Les Enfants (APLE) is nonetheless trying to encourage the
court prosecutor to revoke the pedophile's visa, restrict his
departure from Cambodia, and to appeal the judge's suspension
decision. The Ambassador wrote a letter to the Minister of
Justice requesting his personal involvement in reviewing the
process that led to Belov's release. As the Ambassador
stated in his letter, the Sihanoukville judge's decision
essentially puts out a welcome mat for all such criminals,
and undermines the great strides that the Royal Government of
Cambodia has made over the past year to combat TIP. End
summary.

Convicted Pedophile Released After Six Months in Jail
--------------------------------------------- --------

2. (SBU) The Sihanoukville Municipal Court on July 21
suspended the already-light three year prison sentence of a
Russian pedophile who was convicted of sexually abusing three
young boys -- the pedophile, Nikita Belov, was released on
probation two days later. Despite testimony from the three
boys that Belov had sexual intercourse with them,
questionable medical certificates submitted to the court
allowed Judge In Manith to convict Belov on a misdemeanor
charge of indecent acts against a minor under the new
anti-TIP law. Sexual intercourse with a minor is a felony
under Cambodian law and carries a punishment of five to ten
years in jail; indecent acts against a minor, one to three
years.

Questionable Medical Certificates Lead to Misdemeanor Charge
--------------------------------------------- -------

3. (SBU) According to APLE Country Director Seila Samleang,
the medical certificates submitted as evidence in the Belov
trial did not state clearly that Belov had intercourse with
the victims. Samleang stated that medical certificates,
ordered by police after arrests in such cases, are not always
reliable. He said that lawyers have access to the doctors
who write the medical certificates, and he believes that
sometimes the medical certificates are compromised due to
corruption. Samleang said that he has been involved with
cases in which a doctor has verbally told him a different
medical conclusion than what is submitted on a medical
certificate. He added that the medical certificates
themselves can be difficult to interpret with some doctors
stating on one area of the report that physical injury
related to the nature of the crime was observed, but on
another area of the report that the result of the exam is
inconclusive. Samleang noted that on past occasions, he has
received different medical exam conclusions from different
clinics regarding the same victim and alleged crime.

Suspended Three Year Sentence
-----------------------------

4. (SBU) In terms of a conviction on the criminal
misdemeanor charge of indecent acts against a minor, Belov
received the maximum allowable prison sentence but the court
then made what Samleang deemed an "unusual" decision to
suspend the sentence. Belov had been in pre-trial detention
for six months and 15 days before his trial date on July 21.
Judge In Manith decided on probation for Belov later on the
same day that she convicted and sentenced him. Post is
seeking a copy of the verdict from the court but has heard
from APLE that the judge gave no reason for the suspension,
only commenting that it is allowable under the law in the
case of a misdemeanor.

Little Training on New Law Leaves Gap for Corruption
--------------------------------------------- -------


PHNOM PENH 00000628 002 OF 002


5. (SBU) The new anti-TIP law breaks down various TIP and
sexual exploitation crimes into different articles, allowing
a judge to convict perpetrators on a number of different
charges and to apply compound penalties. As an example,
sexual intercourse with a minor, indecent acts with a minor,
child pornography, and purchase of child prostitution are
each considered separate offenses and, as stated in Article 6
of the law: "when an accused is found guilty of several
concurrent offenses, each of the penalties incurred may be
pronounced." However, The Asia Foundation Program Officer
Katherine Keane, who works with the anti-TIP National Task
Force Prosecution Working Group, stated that during a recent
training exercise with some judges and prosecutors, they
found that judges and prosecutors did not often look beyond
the first offense they found in the new anti-TIP law. She
stated that it seemed not an easy law to apply. When the law
was passed and promulgated in February 2008 (Ref B), judicial
and law enforcement officials had neither copies of the law
nor training on it. The law was published en masse and
officially distributed in early July although some training
for law enforcement and judicial officials through the
National Task Force had begun in May. The National Task
Force has stated that it does not expect widespread training
to take place until late in 2008. Ministry of Justice
Secretary of State Chan Sotheavy also stated that the
Ministry started to run a weekly television spot explaining
the new law article by article.

Comment
-------

6. (SBU) Gaps in information dissemination, training, and
understanding of the new anti-TIP law could continue to
provide space for Cambodia's notoriously corrupt courts to
let off criminals such as Belov -- this is the reality of
having the new law come into effect without training.
However, Judge In Manith is not off the hook for her having
released Belov on probation after only six months in prison.
The Ambassador sent a letter to Minister of Justice Ang Vong
Vathana requesting his personal involvement in the review of
the process which allowed the distressing release. There is
every reason to believe that Belov has left the country but
APLE has nonetheless decided to continue working with the
court prosecutor seeking the revocation of Belov's visa to
prevent his departure from Cambodia, and an appeal of the
sentence decision. Samleang reported that Ministry of
Justice Under-Secretary of State Ith Rady promised to fully
investigate the case. However, given that the situation may
require an investigation of the Sihanoukville court judge,
minister-level involvement will likely be required to restore
justice. We note that the removal of Appeals Court Judge Ly
Vouch Leng required Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng's
involvement. For this reason, the Ambassador plans to raise
the issue during an upcoming meeting with Sar Kheng as well.
MUSSOMELI

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