Deputy Prime Minister Sok An yesterday rejected accusations of interference in government-opposed cases 003 and 004 at the Khmer Rouge tribunal, even as the head of the court’s security department confirmed yesterday that he had received requests to bring suspects into custody, but was not acting on them.
Speaking at the inauguration of a stupa dedicated to victims of the Khmer Rouge, An – who is chairman of the government’s tribunal task force – said the government was continuing to cooperate with the UN on the cases, in which suspects Meas Muth and Im Chaem have been charged in absentia with crimes against humanity by the court’s international co-investigating judge without the cooperation of his national counterpart.
“That was the discussion between the judges, and the judges have different ideas,” he said. “This is internal work that they have to deal with; the Cambodian government could not interfere.”
The government has long been vocally opposed to pressing forward in the two cases, with Prime Minister Hun Sen himself claiming that pursuing the trials could plunge the country back into civil war.
Observers, however, have dismissed that assertion, and the government has come under heavy fire for its opposition. On Monday, both Human Rights Watch and the Open Society Justice Initiative released statements condemning the government’s handling of the cases.
HRW’s Asia director, Brad Adams, accused the government of “blocking justice”. “If the government fails to act quickly on the judge’s charges, then it’s time the UN ends its participation and for donors to stop funding the tribunal,” he said.
Sok An pushed back against the criticism at yesterday’s event, saying that while HRW has a reputation for criticising the government, “now they criticise the United Nations as well”.
Despite the profession of cooperation, Mao Chandara, chief of security at the tribunal, said yesterday that he had not yet acted on requests to take Muth and Chaem into custody.
“I received the request from the international co-investigating judge about a month ago to arrest the two of them, but we requested from them some time to study [it],” he said, noting the fact that national co-investigating judge had not signed the orders.
“It’s not that police refuse to do [it] as requested, but we need some time to study this, and I do agree that the Cambodian government did not interfere in the case,” he added.