It may be another two years before a final decision on whether to try suspects in the Khmer Rouge tribunal’s Cases 003 and 004, according to a recently released report from the court, which suggests splitting 004 into three separate cases to shorten the timeframe.
The fourth revision of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia’s (ECCC) completion plan, posted online this month, reveals an extra year has been added to the cases’ projected timelines since the last review in December.
The news, said Panhavuth Long, program officer with the Cambodian Justice Initiative, was “very disappointing”.
“The scope [of the cases] is too big; they just expand and expand. It’s just crazy,” Long said.
According to the predictions, the Case 003 investigation into former Khmer Rouge navy commander Meas Muth, charged in absentia in March, will conclude by year’s end, with a closing order issued by the third quarter of 2016 and the pre-trial chamber’s final ruling on charges by the end of the first quarter of 2017.
The Case 004 investigation – against former deputy secretary of the Central Zone Ao An and former head of Preah Netr Preah district Im Chaem, both of whom have been charged, and Ta Tith, the alleged former deputy head of the North West Zone, who has not been officially named – would finish by the first quarter of 2016.
A closing order would be delivered by the end of 2016 and the pre-trial chamber decision by mid-2017.
But with investigations delayed by staff shortages, a lack of timely translation of documents, suspects ignoring summonses, and the failure of police to execute arrest warrants, the Office of Co-Investigating Judges is considering splitting 004 into three parts.
A disparity in the status of probes against the three 004 suspects means that, if split, at least one segment could be ready for a final PTC decision by the third quarter of next year.
But Heather Ryan, of the Open Society Justice Initiative, said such a move could delay rather than expedite work because a single trial chamber would ultimately have to try the cases serially.