Prime Minister Hun Sen told United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon yesterday that he would not allow prosecutions at the Khmer Rouge tribunal beyond its second case, a move critics called the most blatant example yet of political interference in the work of the court.
Foreign minister Hor Namhong told reporters following the meeting that Hun Sen considered pending investigations in Cases 003 and 004 a threat to the Kingdom’s “stability”.
“Samdech [Hun Sen] clearly affirmed that Case 003 will not be allowed,” he said. “We have to think about peace in Cambodia or the court will fail.”
“The court will try the four senior leaders successfully and then finish with Case 002.”
Hun Sen has repeatedly expressed his opposition to investigations in Cases 003 and 004, which feature five suspects whose names remain confidential.
UN court spokesman Lars Olsen said he had no information on the meeting between Ban and Hun Sen.
“The court does not seek permission
and endorsement for its work. It simply follows the legal process described in the law and the agreement relating to this court,” Olsen said.
The 2003 agreement between the government and the UN that established the tribunal empowers the court to prosecute “senior leaders” and those “most responsible” for crimes committed under Democratic Kampuchea.
By pursuing possible prosecutions in Cases 003 and 004, court officials were violating this, Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith said yesterday.
“The purpose of forming the court was to seek justice for victims and guarantee peace and stability in society,” Khieu Kanharith said. “If the court walks farther than that, it will fall.”
Ban visited the tribunal yesterday and held a question-and-answer session with court staff. There, he was asked about Hun Sen’s comments and the UN response, said Jasper Pauw, a legal consultant for former Khmer Rouge Brother No 2 Nuon Chea.
“The secretary general reiterated that the independence was very important, and that the official position of the UN was that there should be no interference,” Pauw said. “He didn’t make any promises as to how they would effectively address this issue.”
A UN briefing on the meeting between Ban and Hun Sen said Ban had emphasised that the tribunal “was established to be fully independent, and that no one should seek to influence its decisions in any way”.
Phil Robertson, deputy director of the Asia division for Human Rights Watch, said Hun Sen was using his “inappropriate control” over the judiciary to try to “browbeat the international community into accepting his version of what should be covered by the Extraordinary Chambers”.
Cambodian officials at the UN-backed court have thus far fallen in line with Hun Sen’s view that prosecutions should end following Case 002.
Last year, international prosecutor William Smith made submissions regarding Cases 003 and 004 to the court’s Co-Investigating Judges over opposition from Cambodian Co-Prosecutor Chea Leang; in June, French Co-Investigating Judge Marcel Lemonde announced that he was moving forward with the investigations despite a lack of support from You Bunleng, his Cambodian counterpart.
“It’s already decided by the government, and the government has decided who they want to prosecute,” said Long Panhavuth, a project officer with the Cambodia Justice Initiative. “I would consider it a show trial.”