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Genocide charges delivered to Muth

Meas Muth, a former navy chief of the Khmer Rouge, smokes a cigarette at his house in Battambang province earlier this year. Muth was charged with genocide yesterday by Khmer Rouge tribunal judge Michael Bohlander.
Meas Muth, a former navy chief of the Khmer Rouge, smokes a cigarette at his house in Battambang province earlier this year. Muth was charged with genocide yesterday by Khmer Rouge tribunal judge Michael Bohlander. Vireak Mai

Genocide charges delivered to Muth

Case 003 suspect Meas Muth was charged with genocide, crimes against humanity, grave breaches of the Geneva Convention and homicide yesterday morning by Khmer Rouge tribunal international co-investigating judge Michael Bohlander in Battambang town.

Muth had already been charged in absentia in March by former international co-investigating judge Mark Harmon, and though a court spokesman declined yesterday to comment on specific changes to the charges, some differences were evident from the court’s statements.

Notably, yesterday’s charge of genocide had been absent from the previous set. However, Bohlander’s charges appear to exclude the grave breaches of the Geneva Convention of “wilful deprivation of a prisoner of war or civilian’s right to fair and regular trials” and “unlawful deportation or transfer”, both of which had been included in Harmon’s decision.

Court spokesman Lars Olsen declined to comment on the details of the changes to the accusations or why they were made, saying the matter was “confidential by law”. Olsen also said “no investigative requests [by the defence] have been made public”.

Bohlander yesterday travelled to Battambang to read Muth the charges, which also include the grave breaches of “wilful killing”, “wilfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health”, torture and “unlawful confinement of civilians”.

He also accuses Muth of crimes against humanity, murder, extermination, enslavement, imprisonment, torture, persecution and inhumane acts – including inhumane treatment, forced labour, forced marriage and attacks on human dignity due to conditions of detention.

According to a statement from Bohlander’s office, the crimes were committed at “various security centres”, including S-21 and Wat Enta Nhien, as well as at the Stung Hav worksite and worksites at the Ream area cooperative, and in present-day Preah Sihanouk province.

The statement also says Muth is accused of crimes committed “by the Navy of Democratic Kampuchea in and around the islands claimed by Democratic Kampuchea”, and crimes committed “against members of Division 164, 502, 117, and 310”.

Yesterday’s charges invalidated Harmon’s, along with two orders the former judge had issued to bring Muth to Phnom Penh to hear the charges against him.

The orders had generated controversy when Cambodian authorities declined to act on either, which observers took to be evidence of government interference given its longstanding opposition to cases 003 and 004.

Prime Minister Hun Sen, a former Khmer Rouge cadre himself, had previously warned that cases 003 and 004 going to trial could spark civil war.

In an email yesterday, Muth’s international defence lawyer Michael Karnavas said his team has had access to the case file since March.

“Mr Meas Muth has been cooperating all along. It is nonsense to report otherwise,” Karnavas said, explaining why Muth had voluntarily appeared to hear the charges.

“He did not recognise Harmon’s summons since he was acting unilaterally and to our knowledge without the consent or approval or support of the national co-investigating judge.

We were also of the opinion that Harmon was acting as a prosecutor and not as a fair and objective investigating judge.”

However, as with Harmon’s charges, the statement from judge Bohlander appeared to be issued without the participation of his national counterpart, You Buleng.

The fresh charges against Muth come just days after Case 004 suspect Yim Tith was charged, also in a unilateral decision by Bohlander.

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