Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Forced pregnancy will not be part of KRT's Case 004

Forced pregnancy will not be part of KRT's Case 004

A picture released on February 9, 1985 depicts a Khmer Rouge guerilla women unit in Phum Thmey in Western Cambodia. AFP
A picture released on February 9, 1985 depicts a Khmer Rouge guerilla women unit in Phum Thmey in Western Cambodia. AFP

Forced pregnancy will not be part of KRT's Case 004

The Khmer Rouge tribunal will not investigate allegations of forced pregnancy during the Democratic Kampuchea regime in its Case 004, citing issues of legality, timing and a lack of evidence in a decision made public on Wednesday evening.

Civil party lawyers and the prosecution had launched separate but similar requests to investigate forced impregnation in the case against suspects Ao An and Yim Tith. Both requests, however, were denied by the office of the co-investigating judges, who said in a decision that forced pregnancy was not defined as a distinct crime between 1975 and 1979.

It was not until the Rome Statue of the International Criminal Court in 1998 that it was legally recognised.

The decision said that, furthermore: “There is at present, after years of investigation into forced marriage, no evidence that would support a policy of forced impregnation or forced pregnancy.

“Both requests were filed very late in the day without good cause having been shown; extending the investigation now would put an undue burden on the Defence and cause an unacceptable delay in the investigations.”

But civil party lawyer Linda Behnke, who applied for forced pregnancy to be examined as a distinct – and inherently gendered – crime, said she was “disappointed”, and that the court had missed an opportunity to investigate the crime.

“We know the practice of forced marriage was very common; it’s something that many of our clients experienced,” she said. “They were being coerced to consummate the marriage – often, there were people spying on them and they would pay some kind of punishment [if they didn’t].”

Witnesses in the current trial have testified that couples were closely monitored, and those who did not consummate were reported to the upper echelons for their so-called betrayal.

Behnke said pregnancies were more difficult to bear due to limited health care, being forced to work straight after birth and breastfeeding problems stemming from harsh living conditions.

Those experiences, coupled with Khmer Rouge documents that endorse a policy of population growth, compelled the lawyers representing victims to file a request with the investigating judges.

According to a March 2016 report into forced marriage under the Khmer Rouge, authored by Maria Lobato and published by the Cambodian Human Rights Action Coalition (CHRAC), no international or hybrid criminal tribunal has ever prosecuted the crime of forced pregnancy.

MOST VIEWED

  • With herd immunity likely in 2022, is Cambodia ready to reopen for tourism?

    The government aims to inoculate 80 per cent of the target population by June next year, giving it a head start among regional peers to reboot the sector but first, it has to do a few things to up its game A sign on a glass

  • Quarantine still a must for all arrivals, in next Covid chapter

    Since early May, an average of five to 10 Cambodian people have died from Covid-19 a day with many others testing positive amid the ongoing community outbreak. At the same time, however, hundreds of patients also recovered a day. The first Covid-19 case in Cambodia was

  • US wants 'full access' to Ream Naval Base

    On June 11, the US embassy's Defense Attaché Colonel Marcus M Ferrara visited Ream Nava Base in coordination with Cambodian officials following the recent approval of Prime minister Hun Sen to allay the concerns on Chinese military presence at the base as raised by US Deputy

  • Jab drive heading to 5 provinces

    The government is set to vaccinate more than 1.2 million people in five provinces after finishing with Phnom Penh and neighbouring Kandal in an ongoing campaign administered by the ministries of Health and National Defence. The five provinces are Preah Sihanouk, Kampong Speu, Takeo, Kampong Cham

  • New immigration bill targets illegal foreigners in Kingdom

    General Department of Immigration (GDI) officials are discussing revisions to the new draft law on immigration to prevent foreigners from entering Cambodia illegally and to supervise those living in the Kingdom more effectively. The revisions draw wide support among civil society organisations. GDI director-general Kirth

  • First commercial gold mine online

    Australian miner Renaissance Minerals (Cambodia) Ltd on June 21 began the commercial operation of its $120 million Okvau Gold Project in the northeastern province of Mondulkiri, becoming the Kingdom’s first gold producer. Located in the Okvau area in southwestern Mondulkiri province’s Keo Seima district, the