The Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee – a coalition of 21 civil society organisations – has called on government officials to keep their opinions to themselves on the matter of the ongoing investigations into cases 003 and 004 at the Khmer Rouge tribunal.
The admonition, released late last week, came hot on the heels of the court’s announcement of charges being formally laid against suspects Im Chaem and Meas Muth in cases 003 and 004, to which government officials, including Prime Minister Hun Sen, have long been vocally opposed.
“Contrary to the principles of democracy on judicial independence and the separation of powers, Prime Minister Hun Sen and other senior officials made public announcements from the beginning that cases besides [the current Case] 002 should not be processed,” the statement reads.
The committee went on to call on the government not to interfere in the new cases, and cease any attempts to influence the outcomes of the investigations. Opposition to the cases extends to the office of national co-investigating judge You Bunleng, who has stated that he considers the cases closed.
The charges against the two suspects were unilaterally issued by international co-investigating judge Mark Harmon.
“The committee remains concerned about the continued disagreement between national and international co-investigating judges on the process of investigation and the refusal of the national sides to support the investigation,” the statement goes on to say.
The two suspects were charged with, among other things, crimes against humanity including murder, enslavement and extermination in relation to purges and Khmer Rouge security centres and, in the case of Muth, the capture of foreign nationals at sea and on islands over which Cambodia exercised sovereignty.
Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said yesterday that the NGOs’ statement was the result of a misunderstanding of the prime minister’s stance, and maintained that the decision to move forward with the cases was an internal matter between the international and national co-investigators.
“They listened wrongly and they exaggerated the story,” he said. “The government does not have a tendency to block [the cases].”
Regardless of who would determine whether the cases proceed, Chaem said yesterday that, as an innocent person, she would not appear in court.
“At that time, I was just a person who gathered people for farming,” she said.