The Khmer Rouge tribunal has thrown out one of its most contentious cases, that against former district leader Im Chaem.
The dismissal was issued early on Wednesday with the co-investigating judges finding “she was neither a senior leader nor otherwise one of the most responsible officials of the Khmer Rouge regime”, and therefore falls outside the jurisdiction of the hybrid tribunal.
“The dismissal also means that all civil party applications [by victims of the crimes committed by the regime] related to Im Chaem had to be rejected,” a statement from the court reads.
Chaem was allegedly secretary of Preah Netr Preah district in the North-West Zone under the Khmer Rouge regime and was charged in March 2015 with crimes against humanity including murder, extermination, enslavement, imprisonment and persecution on political grounds.
Her case, known as Case 004/01, has been dogged by political interference and divided Cambodian and international prosecutors as to whether it should proceed.
The government has long made known its position that the tribunal should conclude with current Case 002 against the Khmer Rouge’s most senior surviving leaders, Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan.
Prime Minister Hun Sen himself has previously said if Case 004 – which also includes cadres Ao An and Yim Tith – and Case 003 – against alleged naval commander Meas Muth – went to trial, civil war could ensue, prompting experts to question whether the cases would fold under government pressure.
Citing logistical and budgetary constraints, a document listing the full reason for the dismissal will be filed “in due course”.
While a summary will be made public, “the reasons for this decision, as far as they relate to the substance of the charges themselves, and the decision on the civil party applications shall remain confidential unless the dismissal is overturned on appeal and a trial ordered by the Pre-Trial Chamber”.
Chaem’s lawyers, Wayne Jordash and Bit Seanglim, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
International prosecutor Nicholas Koumjian previously argued Chaem was “criminally responsible in that she was the superior of perpetrators, knew about the crimes and failed to take reasonable measures to prevent the crimes or punish those responsible”.
Reached this morning, Koumjian said he would withhold judgment on the decision until reading the legal reasons.
“I look forward to reading the recent decision and I will not comment further at the moment,” he said.