Lawyer visiting client to provide legal counseling
In the present report covering period of June to December 2021, the coronavirus has been key subject of discussion and how it has affected the lives of those marginalized people, especially vulnerable children, including specifically victims of sexual abuse and exploitation. The current situation of the virus spread has significant impacts globally, and specifically the developing country—Cambodia is one of the many.
The coronavirus has changed the usual models of teaching and learnings which all children and youths have been required to do distance learning; it means they need to have internet connection to virtual platforms to interact, exchange ideas, join discussion and do all assigned tasks. Taking the advantage of that the potential child sex offenders have been very quick to adapt their ways of approaches by escalating the use of online communication to target their victims.
In the report period, APLE’s Internet Hotline received a total of 119 cases concerning suspected sexual abuse and exploitation of children; 54 of which were cases involving Online Sexual Exploitation of Children (OCSE), including Child Sexual Abuse Materials, Online Grooming, Live Streaming, Sexting and Sextortion. According to APLE’s Internet Hotline Cambodia’s statistic, the number of OCSE cases increased 192% in the same period of June-December 2020 and 2021.
On the support side, APLE’s Victim Support and Assistance (ViSA) team provided immediate psychological support and crisis packages to 24 (F:16) new child victims and 20 family members. These new child victims and family members were identified by police to be victims of Sexual Abuse and Exploitation. Additionally, these child victims and families also received pro-bono and impartial legal aid services including legal counseling, legal advises and legal representation during their participation to legal proceedings, both at police investigation stage and judicial proceedings. The supports were not only to meet the needs of victims and families, but also to escalate the adoption of the child-centric/friendly practices to increase the protection of the rights and best interests of child victims.
Given the lengthy legal procedures, APLE’s ViSA team continued to provide both psycho-social and legal support 47 (F:26) and 34 (F: 25) family members of those victims on top of the above number, making the total victims supported 71 and the total victim families 54.
Further to the support of victims and families in criminal cases, APLE’s ViSA team assisted them to pursue their civil compensation claims after the default judgement of the criminal verdict. The pursuance of civil case normally conducted in Cambodia, as well as in jurisdiction of the country of the foreign offender. As a result, 03 child victims (all males) received a total compensation of 1,200 US dollars (600 US dollars for each of the victims). In addition, one victim has received compensation based on the international verdict of 60,000 US dollars. APLE continued to work in collaboration with international pro-bono lawyers to facilitate supports to child victims to pursue the civil claims in international jurisdiction.
To help mitigate the difficulties of the victims and families, APLE assessed the needs during the spread of coronavirus and lock down and provided 110 welfare support packages, including rice, cane finish, noodle and groceries and hygiene materials such as soap, hand sanitizer and face masks to 54 families of victims from Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Kandal, Preah Sihanouk, Takeo, Prey Veng and Battambang municipalities and provinces. The welfare packages helped reduce the financial burden of the families who lost jobs and incomes during the pandemic.
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ViSA team visiting client for a follow-up