The defence team for alleged Khmer Rouge district secretary Im Chaem claims her personal safety has been put in jeopardy by a recent statement from the prosecution, which they also accuse of violating her fair-trial rights.
Chaem was charged by the Khmer Rouge tribunal in absentia in 2015 of crimes against humanity including murder, extermination and enslavement; her case was severed into Case 004/01 last year.
The statement, made public on February 3 but dated December 29, stems from a summary penned by international prosecutor Nicholas Koumjian, who argued Chaem should be prosecuted for alleged crimes against humanity, despite objections from his national counterpart Chea Leang.
Chaem’s lawyers said that Koumjian’s summary “provides an unhelpful record for the public, disregards Ms. Im Chaem’s fair trial right to be presumed innocent, and imperils her personal security”.
“The International Co-Prosecutor’s remarks negatively portray Ms. Im Chaem . . . at a critical stage of the proceedings, thereby encouraging unwarranted public condemnation,” the letter read.
They suggested “that the threats to Ms. Im Chaem’s personal security are real and further undermined” by Koumjian’s summary, and further, that it exposed confidential aspects of the investigation into the crimes of which she is accused.
Chaem’s lawyers, Bit Seanglim and Wayne Jordash, who asked investigating judges to redact the statement and to rectify misleading information, did not respond to requests for comment yesterday.
Koumjian also did not respond as of press time, but in a response to the defence’s filing made public the same day, he said Chaem’s request should be denied and was based on “a misinterpretation” and “selective” legal reasoning.
“Im Chaem’s current strained interpretation of ECCC [Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia] procedure would lead to absurd results,” he wrote, stressing his summary does not contain any confidential information and does not breach the presumption of innocence.
“Im Chaem has provided numerous publicly available interviews to DC-Cam und other outlets in which she makes various admissions regarding her involvement and role in the Khmer Rouge. Im Chaem’s repetition of unsupported claims regarding risks to her personal security are similarly irrelevant.”
Tribunal observer Long Panhavuth agreed yesterday, saying the defence had “no grounds” to claim Chaem was put at risk. “I think the public needs to know, and I think it is not affecting [Chaem’s] safety and security,” he said. “The right to a fair trial for the suspect has been always guaranteed.”
Court spokesperson Hayat Abu-Saleh said the summary had not been redacted and that a closing order – which would either indict Chaem or dismiss the charges – was expected by the end of March.