Lawyers at the Khmer Rouge tribunal presented arguments yesterday on whether to proceed with a trial against former regime district leader Im Chaem in a closed door appeal hearing.
Charges against Chaem were dismissed in February, with defence teams arguing that her position was not high enough for her to be considered one of those most responsible for the crimes of the Khmer Rouge. The decision was appealed by International Co-Prosecutor Nicholas Koumjian.
The government has controversially opposed all future cases, including Chaem’s, with Prime Minister Hun Sen publicly claiming that hearing any cases beyond the two already heard could cause civil war. Amid the government pressure, the co-prosecutors’ office has been split along national lines, with Koumjian pushing to go forward with the trial and his Cambodian counterpart Chea Leang moving to dismiss charges.
Civil party lawyer Lyma Nguyen confirmed that her team made submissions yesterday, explaining that they focused on challenging the dismissal decision’s claim that dismissing the case also clears Chaem of any responsibility in a lower Cambodian court.
“We believe that these findings were erroneous and further, extraneous to the Co-Investigating Judges’ core task of determining whether Im Chaem falls within the personal jurisdiction of the ECCC,” she said via email.
Nguyen went on to say that the judges’ decision may “usurp the sovereignty of the Kingdom of Cambodia to determine its own jurisdiction over any future domestic prosecutions of Khmer-Rouge era crimes and effectively amount to a declaration of an unlawful blanket immunity for very serious crimes”.
The international and national defence counsels will be given a total of four hours to respond today.