Cambodian People’s Party top leader Heng Samrin (r) Chea Sim (l) Photograph: Phnom Penh Post
Cambodian People’s Party heavyweights Chea Sim and Heng Samrin are named along with Cambodian Army chief Pol Sareoun and another senator as “persons of interest” in an investigation into government opposed Case 003 at the Khmer Rouge tribunal, Australian newspaper The Age reported yesterday.
International reserve co-investigating judge Laurent Kasper-Ansermet named the four as potentially having information about “atrocities committed against ethnic Vietnamese civilians living on the border with Cambodia”, the paper reported.
Additionally, documents obtained by the Post over the weekend show that Brother No 2 Nuon Chea’s defence team has filed a motion for public disclosure of the “forwarding order” by the now-resigned Swiss judge.
“In a forwarding order issued shortly before his departure (the ‘Forwarding Order’), Judge Kasper-Ansermet made it known to the [Office of the Co-Prosecutors] that – in his considered judicial opinion – Heng Samrin, Chea Sim, Ouk Bunchhoeun and Pol Sareoun may fall within the ECCC’s personal jurisdiction,” the request, filed on Friday, reads.
Under court rules, a “forwarding order” is issued by investigating judges to prosecutors when the judges have found new information that was not included in the original prosecutorial submissions.
Prosecutors then must decide whether to file additional submissions directing investigations into these new facts.
According to The Age, “new facts” discovered by Kasper-Ansermet include “a premeditated attack on an undefended civilian Vietnamese village and a supposition that other similar attacks occurred, along with evidence of repeated incursions into Vietnamese territory”.
The confidential court document alleges the four are likely to have crucial information due to their positions of authority in the areas where the attacks, termed “brutal and illegal”, occurred, the paper reported.
If prosecutors decide to include the “new facts” in the investigations into Case 003 against air commander Sou Met and navy commander Meas Mut, it would mean more victims of the regime are entitled to apply for civil party status.
However, tribunal pre-trial chamber judges have previously taken a narrow approach to public information pertaining to cases 003 and 004.
When international co-prosecutor Andrew Cayley last year attempted to give information to the public about the crime sites in Case 003, he was slapped with a gagging order by judges.
Cambodian co-prosecutor Chea Leang has registered her disagreement over even the prospect of a Case 003 and said she is of the view that the ECCC “will fulfil its mandate” with Case 002, which is now being heard at the tribunal.
Additionally, even if the prosecutors, together or acting independently, decide to extend the parameters of Case 003 to include the “new facts” and consequently require investigations including investigations into the four named CPP officials, there is no guarantee this will actually occur.
Kasper-Ansermet’s Cambodian counterpart You Bunleng yesterday again affirmed that he did not recognise the legality of any of the Swiss national’s acts.
“As I already stated, I did not do any joint investigation with LKA, because he is not a legal international investigating judge. I only work with legal investigating judge,” said You Bunleng, who himself was on the committee that refused to endorse the UN’s appointment of Kasper-Ansermet.
You Bunleng said he is not conducting any investigative acts “as there is no international co-investigating judge, which means I am not allowed to do any investigation”.
Heng Samrin, Chea Sim and senator Ouk Buncchoeun were summonsed by the tribunal in September 2009 to give evidence during the investigation stage of Case 002 but did not comply with the order.
The Post reported that shortly after these senior politicians were summonsed, Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith said that while politicians “could appear in court voluntarily, the government’s position was that they should not give testimony”.
He said that “foreign officials involved in the court” could “pack their clothes and return home” if they were not satisfied with the decision.
When contacted yesterday, Khieu Kanharith said he would not answer questions relating to the tribunal because he was busy monitoring the commune elections.
Cheam Yeap, spokesman for the CPP, and Pol Sareoun could not be reached for comment.
To contact the reporter on this story: Bridget Di Certo at [email protected]