Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Gov’t brushes off ICC threat

Gov’t brushes off ICC threat

Foreign Affairs Minister Hor Namhong speaks at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Phnom Penh
Foreign Affairs Minister Hor Namhong speaks at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Phnom Penh yesterday. Heng Chivoan

Gov’t brushes off ICC threat

Only two days after the Cambodia National Rescue Party announced it would seek to file a complaint against the government at the International Criminal Court, Foreign Minister Hor Namhong likened the opposition’s efforts to a balloon on a breeze – destined to fall when the wind dies.

The CNRP said on Monday that it had secured the services of international lawyer Richard Rogers to investigate alleged criminal action on the part of the government in its much-maligned crackdown on opposition and garment worker rallies, and to see whether the government’s actions could form the basis for a complaint to the ICC.

Namhong, however, dismissed the investigation and maintained that Cambodians were happy with the government’s restoration of order.

“[The investigation] is like a balloon: when there is wind, it flies, but when there is no wind, it will drop down anywhere, even if it is a dirty place,” Namhong told reporters at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“Public opinion in the country has shown that it welcomes the decision of the government to suspend the violent demonstrations,” he added.

At least four people were killed and dozens injured when authorities opened fire on unruly protesters on Veng Sreng Boulevard on Friday, and Rogers yesterday said his investigation would examine murder as a possible charge – along with forcible transfer, illegal imprisonment and persecution.

“We have already started to collect public source documents relating to the violence committed by state security forces against Cambodian civilians,” he said in an email yesterday. “Initially we will consider all the criminal acts committed by security forces since the last national election. We will then move onto the most serious crimes committed by state forces prior to the election.”

Rogers, who has defended clients before the ICC, also cautioned Namhong against doubting the court prosecutor.

“It is too early to tell whether or not the ICC Prosecutor will initiate an investigation,” he said. “But the Foreign Minister should not underestimate the determination of the ICC Prosecutor to address mass human rights violations, even those committed under the authority of sitting governments.”

Cambodian Justice Initiative program officer Panhavuth Long agreed yesterday that it was too early to know whether the effort would succeed, but noted that “the ICC is not an easy place” to lodge a complaint, and that plaintiffs must first exhaust all domestic judicial options.

But Rogers, who has worked in Cambodia – first as the head of the Defense Support Section at the Khmer Rouge tribunal, then in an unsuccessful bid to represent a client in the government-opposed Case 004 – said that attempts to go through domestic channels would likely fail.

“What I learned in my five years working in Cambodia is that there are very good Cambodian judges and prosecutors, but they are prevented from doing their work properly due to the interference from the Cambodian government,” he said.

“Any investigation carried out by Cambodian authorities into the crimes committed by state security forces would not be credible.”

MOST VIEWED

  • Angkor Wat named as the top landmark for the second year

    Travel website TripAdvisor has named Cambodia’s ancient wonder Angkor Wat as the top landmark in the world for the second year running in their Travelers’ Choice Award 2018, an achievement Cambodian tourism operators expect will attract more tourists to the Kingdom. The website uses traveller

  • New US bill ‘is a violation of Cambodian independence’

    After a US congressmen introduced bipartisan legislation that will enact sanctions on Cambodian officials responsible for “undermining democracy” in the Kingdom, government officials and the ruling Cambodian People’s Party on Sunday said they regarded the potential action as the “violation of independence and sovereignty

  • Hun Sen detractors ‘will die’

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday said those who curse or insult him would eventually die without a plot of land to bury their bodies after being killed by lightning, suffering the same fate as those who recently died in Thmar Baing district in Koh

  • Ministry’s plan for net sparks fears

    The government has ordered all domestic and international internet traffic in the Kingdom to pass through a Data Management Centre (DMC) that has been newly created by the state-owned Telecom Cambodia, in a move some have claimed is an attempt to censor government critics. Spokesman