Following intensive collaboration between the Ministry of Justice and the EWMI’s USAID-funded Program on Rights and Justice 2 (PRAJ) to support the investigation in a child trafficking case, an Australian national was convicted in Siem Reap in July and sentenced to eight years in prison for a sexual assault against a four-year-old Cambodian girl. The case was brought to light by PRAJ colleagues from the International Justice Mission (IJM), who contacted PRAJ about the flight risk of a man accused in a child trafficking case in Siem Reap Province. The accused had been arrested in connection with the solicitation and sexual assault of two sisters, ages four and eight, and had been released on his own recognizance pending the decision of the court’s investigating judge. IJM representatives had noticed familiar signs indicating an imminent flight risk – including meetings between the accused and immigration authorities – and approached PRAJ for assistance in learning the status of the prosecution, and to help in communicating with the counter-trafficking offices at the MoJ.
Using the MoJ Trafficking Database, PRAJ was able to identify the relevant Siem Reap court officials from the prosecution and investigating judge divisions, and was able to reach key MoJ officials to look into the case. Exercising care to uphold the rights of the accused and of the victims in the case, PRAJ worked with IJM to obtain the investigation documents and trace the status of the case file as it worked its way from the prosecutor’s office, to the court president, and finally for referral to the investigating judge. This intensive research and communication took place during a Cambodian holiday season and across two provinces, demonstrating the dedication of PRAJ’s partners at the MoJ in ensuring effective prosecutions of trafficking cases.
Following the court’s analysis of the investigation records, the accused was placed in pre-trial detention, avoiding his flight risk and allowing the victims to prepare for their testimony without intimidation. Based on the courageous testimony of the four-year-old victim and other corroborating evidence, the accused was convicted, sentenced to eight years in prison, and required to pay a significant sum in restitution to the victim’s family. IJM hailed the work of PRAJ during the process as being essential to the successful outcome, stating in one correspondence: “Without [PRAJ involvement] the man probably would have fled the country. I wanted to thank you all. Please forward this to Andy [Boname] and Neil [Weinstein], too. Because of your efforts other eight and four year olds are safer!”