Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Breaking: Khmer Rouge tribunal delays decision to close controversial cases

Breaking: Khmer Rouge tribunal delays decision to close controversial cases

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Meas Muth pictured at his house in Battambang in 2015. Vireak Mai

Breaking: Khmer Rouge tribunal delays decision to close controversial cases

Investigating judges at the Khmer Rouge tribunal have decided - for the time being - not to halt controversial cases against former leaders of the regime that claimed at least 1.7 million lives in Cambodia.

The judges in May floated putting a "permanent stay" on Case 003, against Meas Muth; Case 004, against Yim Tith; and Case 004/02, against Ao An – meaning those cases would be shut down and could never be re-opened – in a confidential document, a segment of which was obtained by the Post.

The “sole reason”, the judges said, was due to “lack of funding”, which was questioned by court observers who noted long-standing criticisms of government interference at the court and Prime Minister Hun Sen’s public and forceful objections to those cases going forward.

In a statement released on Friday afternoon, the judges said they “have decided to defer the decision on a stay of proceedings for the time being”, due to responses from the UN, principal donors and the court’s office of administration, as well as a “noticeable improvement in the funding situation”.

“Should a future lack of funds or financial uncertainty threaten judicial independence, fairness and the integrity of the proceedings, we will take the measures that we consider necessary to address the situation,” they said in their decision.

The decision notes that while the defence teams for all three accused “supported a permanent stay at the earliest opportunity”, International Prosecutor Nicholas Koumjian found their consideration of a stay to be “fundamentally unsound” and beyond the judges’ legal power and authority.

To the prosecutor's argument that the judges had “no power to rule on financial obligations” of the UN and other donors, and “should stick to conducting their investigations and deciding cases on the legal merits”, the judges responded that “this argument is red herring”.

“[W]e most certainly do have jurisdiction to adjudicate on the impact the financial situation may have on the fairness of the proceedings,” they said.

In their decision, the judges said the primary donors expressed “regret” “at the suggestion in the Request that through the funding they tried to influence the outcome of Cases 003, 004 and 004/02,” saying they remained “deeply committed” to securing funds for the often cash-strapped tribunal.

The judges, citing a proposed US bill that suggested tying US contributions to the court to an indictment of Meas Muth – allegedly involved in the Mayaguez incident which cost American lives – noted such a proposal put them in a double bind.

“If we indict Meas Muth, court observers may say that we caved in to US demands; if we dismiss the case or do not indict for the Mayaguez incident, we risk the loss of major donor to the ECCC.”

The judges also issued a strongly-worded rebuke to “leakers” and the media for exposing the story.

“The fact that unlawful leaks of confidential information at the ECCC have in the past been endemic and have gone virtually unpunished is not justification for continuing this disgraceful practice,” they wrote.

"[I]ndividuals, including journalists, may not – with impunity – publish information classified by judges as confidential on the basis of their own assessment of the public interest in that information. Such behaviour may endanger the integrity of the proceedings and reduce the public confidence in court['s] ability to preserve confidentiality.”

MOST VIEWED

  • First Cambodian woman graduates from Japan’s NDA military academy

    A few years ago, Meach Sithyka Jessica became the first-ever Cambodian woman to graduate from the US Military Academy at West Point, and since then her courage and determination has served as an inspiration for other Cambodian women. Similarly, Ly Chansocheata became the first Cambodian

  • Construction begins on $1.5B Kampot seaport

    The International Multi-Purpose Logistics and Port Centre, principally invested by Kampot Logistics and Port Co Ltd and projected to cost $1.5 billion, has officially broken ground in Bokor town, Kampot province. The multi-purpose logistics and port centre, located in Prek Tnaot commune, will be built on

  • Cambodia eyes key role in electronics, auto hubs in SEA

    Two roadmaps, part of the LDC’s economic diversification plan, were designed to see it through its migration process, but experts say the journey might be arduous, particularly in the presence of two established hubs in the region By 2028, Cambodia hopes to have exited the

  • Hun Neng, lawmaker and PM’s brother, passes away aged 72

    Hun Neng, chairman of the 4th Commission of the National Assembly, has passed away from heart disease at the age of 72 on the afternoon of May 5, according to the Ministry of Information. Hun Neng is the older brother of Prime Minister Hun Sen, and was

  • CCC team off on US business trip

    The Kingdom’s leading economists and private sector representatives have called on the US to renew its tax preferential status for Cambodian exports, as a Cambodia Chamber of Commerce (CCC) delegation departed for a weeklong business visit to the US, where they will meet with

  • PM meets with US business giants

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has met with a number of major US companies who have expressed interest in investing in Cambodia, in a meeting convened by the US-ASEAN Business Council (US-ABC). A delegation of companies – including Amazon, Meta, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, Ford, Visa and Pernod