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Response to Theary Seng from ECCC

I write in response to a letter to the editor from Ms Theary Seng which was published in The Phnom Penh Post on April 7, 2011.

Ms Seng claims that I have attempted to “pre-empt” her application to become a Civil Party in Cases 003 and 004 before the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) “and those of potential other victims”. In this matter, she seems to be missing the point. I am confident that the civil party application Ms Seng has lodged will be dealt with in accordance with the judicial process prescribed by the law.

My comments about “premature”, “irresponsible” and “reckless” were related to Ms Seng’s act of publicly naming two individuals she alleges to be subject to investigation in Cases 003 and 004. I maintain that her public allegations against named individuals are premature, irresponsible and reckless, as no person has yet been charged in these cases and the identity of any persons connected  to these cases remains confidential. The names brought forward by Ms Seng are based on mere speculation.

It is the practice of this court and normal accepted international legal practice not to make public the identity of suspects under investigation. This is to potentially protect innocent persons and to honour the presumption of innocence, which is a fundamental human right. This protection is enshrined in the Internal Rules of the ECCC, in the Agreement between the United Nations and Royal Government of Cambodia and in the Law establishing the court.

After the initiation of a criminal investigation there might be several suspects under review. A suspect will only be charged where the Co-Investigating Judges deem that there is clear and consistent evidence indicating a person may be criminally responsible for the commission of a crime within the jurisdiction of the court. It is normally only if a suspect has been formally charged with crimes, that the identity of the person may be made public. In accordance with the relevant laws, it is only the Co-Investigating Judges who can decide to make any information about the investigation public.

Ms Seng has chosen to make public allegations that named individuals are being investigated when no one has publicly been identified by the Co-Investigating Judges as being under investigation or charged.

There are good reasons for judicial investigations not to be conducted in public. Persons who are the subject of public unsubstantiated allegations of criminal conduct have no legal remedy to defend themselves. Publicly naming individuals as the subject of a criminal investigation, with no basis, shows complete disregard for judicial due process and principles of law.

Lars Olsen,
Legal Communications Officer
Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia

Send letters to: newsroom@phnompenhpost.com or PO?Box 146, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The Post reserves the right to edit letters to a shorter length. The views expressed above are solely the author’s and do not reflect any positions taken by The Phnom Penh Post.

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