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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Justice group decries proposal to end Khmer Rouge tribunal cases

Alleged Khmer Rouge navy chief Meas Muth, a suspect in Case 003, smokes a cigarette at his house in Battambang province in 2015.
Alleged Khmer Rouge navy chief Meas Muth, a suspect in Case 003, smokes a cigarette at his house in Battambang province in 2015. Vireak Mai

Justice group decries proposal to end Khmer Rouge tribunal cases

Justice advocacy group Open Society released a briefing on Thursday condemning a recent confidential proposal for a “permanent stay” of cases 003 and 004 at the Khmer Rouge tribunal due to funding issues, calling the proposal “drastic, insufficiently supported, and unwarranted”.

Repeating criticism from other observers, the Open Society statement said the proposal never should have been confidential in the first place, claimed that the funding situation is essentially unchanged from previous years and noted that staying the cases – effectively dismissing them without judgment – would be in line with government desires.

A section of the confidential proposal was leaked to The Post in early May, revealing that the office of the co-investigating judges was considering a “permanent stay on proceedings” due to a “lack of funding” in Case 003, against former alleged naval commander Meas Muth; Case 004, against alleged mid-level commander Yim Tith; and Case 004/02, against Ao An, an alleged zone secretary.

“It is . . . difficult to understand why the judges would threaten to pull the plug on these cases when they are so close to Closing Orders, and when funding for the current budget is moving toward fulfillment,” the statement says.

A court representative declined to comment yesterday.

Heather Ryan, a long-time court observer and a consultant to Open Society, said there is no evidence justifying the co-investigating judges’ proposal to close the cases over funding.

“If they have access to some information to the contrary, they have an obligation to disclose it publicly,” Ryan said via email on Saturday.

“A significant consequence of the request is that it will raise the appearance of political motivations for ending the cases,” she added.

When asked why the government would desire to terminate these cases, Ryan said she had “no inside information”.

“There are theories that the information developed in the cases would reflect badly on those in power,” Ryan said.

Prime Minister Hun Sen and National Assembly President Heng Samrin were both members of the Khmer Rouge. Hun Sen has previously warned on multiple occasions that cases 003 and 004 going to court could result in civil war.

“Even if the judges do not carry out their threat, it is likely to . . . further discourage donors about the wisdom of supporting the court,” the statement says in closing. “The position of the co-investigating judges is a blow to the cause of international accountability and the fight against impunity.”

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