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British lawyer targets 'ruling elite' in ICC complaint

A British lawyer has asked the International Criminal Court to launch an investigation into “widespread and systematic” land grabbing in Cambodia for more than a decade by what he calls the Kingdom’s “ruling elite”.

The complaint filed with the Hague court today by lawyer Richard Rogers, who is representing Cambodian land grab victims, alleges that the displacement of an estimated 770,000 people over the past 14 years constitutes a crime against humanity.

“The communication contends that senior members of the Cambodian government, its security forces, and government-connected business leaders carried out an attack on the civilian population with the twin objectives of self-enrichment and preservation of power at all costs,” a statement released by Global Diligence LLP – where Rogers works – and the International Federation for Human Rights, says.

Rogers says that crimes committed by this group “include murder, forcible transfer of populations, illegal imprisonment, persecution and other inhumane acts”.

Government spokesman Phay Siphan, who had previously mocked the lawyer’s efforts, said yesterday that the complaint was “still a joke”, and was not only exaggerated, but politically motivated.

“It’s polarized by politics,” he said, adding that the government was making a significant effort to resolve the 1,263 land dispute cases that Cambodians had lodged at the national level.

“Prime Minister Hun Sen has publicly made a statement that he won’t let land-grabbing issues [continue].”

Cambodia ratified the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court in March 2002.

It is up to the ICC prosecutor to decide whether a full investigation will be launched.

Investigations are currently being conducted at the court based on alleged crimes in eight countries, all of which are in Africa.

In March of this year, American human rights attorney Morton Sklar filed a complaint against Prime Minister Hun Sen and other government officials at the ICC alleging crimes of genocide based on “efforts to interfere” at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal.

In 2012, the US-based Khmer People Power Movement also filed a complaint with the ICC that accused the government of crimes against humanity related to forced evictions.

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