Judges at the Khmer Rouge tribunal have rejected a civil party application from former Olympic rower Rob Hamill in the court’s third case, fuelling further speculation that its dismissal has been planned in advance.
In a statement released yesterday, Hamill called the rejection “outrageous and unfounded” given his family’s clear connection to the investigation.
Hamill’s brother Kerry was captured by the Khmer Rouge in 1978 while sailing with friends in the Gulf of Thailand before being taken to S-21 prison in Phnom Penh and executed. Rob Hamill was present to testify about the ordeal in 2009 during the tribunal’s first trial, that of former S-21 prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Duch.
Hamill was admitted as a civil party in both Case 001 and Case 002, which features four senior Khmer Rouge leaders including former KR second-in-command Nuon Chea and is set to head to trial later this year.
The suspects in Case 003 remain officially confidential, though court documents reveal them as former KR navy commander Meas Muth and air force commander Sou Met.
Hamill says Meas Muth in particular played a “pivotal role” in his brother’s capture, and in a statement last week, tribunal co-prosecutor Andrew Cayley confirmed that the “capture of foreign nationals off the coast of Cambodia and their unlawful imprisonment” figures in the Case 003 investigation.
The court’s co-investigating judges announced the closure of this investigation last month, though they failed to provide any significant information about the case to prospective civil party applicants during the 20 months the investigation was open and did not even summon Sou Met and Meas Muth for questioning during that time. This has prompted allegations that the judges have bowed to the stiff opposition to Case 003 from Prime Minister Hun Sen and other officials and have deliberately failed to investigate the case properly.
“Given the ‘confidential’ classification of the decision – which in itself is baffling – I can only say that it appears the decision is based on political convenience rather than a proper application of the law,” Hamill said in his statement.
“The conduct of Cases 003 and 004 appear[s] to be politically influenced and the actions of the [investigating judges] are an affront to the principles behind the establishment of this Tribunal.”
Im Sophea, outreach coordinator for the tribunal’s Victims Support Section, said this week that the court had so far received only four Case 003 civil party applications, after nearly 4,000 people applied in Case 002.
At least two of the Case 003 applicants – Hamill and local activist Theary Seng – have been rejected. The deadline to lodge civil party applications in this case is today.
Cayley requested last week that the judges extend this window another six weeks, though United Nations court spokesman Lars Olsen said yesterday that he had no information on whether this request had been granted.