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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Rights group says it weighed taking evictions to The Hague

Rights group says it weighed taking evictions to The Hague

Says discussions late last year were ultimately shelved because of jurisdictional issues.

LAWYERS for the rights group Adhoc briefly considered moving to bring a series of eviction cases before the International Criminal Court (ICC) late last year but abandoned the plan when it became clear that the cases would not likely fall under the court's jurisdiction.

An article in the April 2009 issue of Harper's, a US-based monthly magazine, reported that Adhoc lawyers "have begun talking about bringing the eviction cases" to the ICC, located in The Hague, Netherlands, under the logic that "mass evictions committed in a systematic manner fall under the definition of a crime against humanity".

But Adhoc President Thun Saray told the Post on Tuesday that the discussions had in fact taken place in December 2008, when officials from the ICC visited the Khmer Rouge tribunal.

"We discussed the issue with experts from the ICC at the end of last year, but then we abandoned the plan of complaining to the ICC because it was useless," Thun Saray said. "The ICC has no jurisdiction."

Article 7 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court defines as a crime against humanity the "deportation or forcible transfer" of a population "when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population".

Thun Saray said the fact that many of the evictions in question were ostensibly carried out for development purposes meant that they would not likely qualify under the article.

Eviction totals

Ouch Leng, an Adhoc investigator, told the Post last week that the Cambodian government had evicted 15,000 families since 2004. Amnesty International reported this month that it had received reports of "about 27 forced evictions" affecting an estimated 23,000 people in 2008.

Thun Saray said Adhoc lawyers had first considered bringing the cases before the ICC because they did not believe domestic courts would hear forced eviction cases brought by Cambodian citizens.

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