Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Khmer Rouge tribunal severs Im Chaem from Case 004



Khmer Rouge tribunal severs Im Chaem from Case 004

Accused war criminal Im Chaem sits at a house in Oddar Meanchey's Anlong Veng district in 2014.
Accused war criminal Im Chaem sits at a house in Oddar Meanchey's Anlong Veng district in 2014. Charlotte Pert

Khmer Rouge tribunal severs Im Chaem from Case 004

The Khmer Rouge tribunal announced yesterday that it has severed the case of accused war criminal Im Chaem from the rest of Case 004, a development that could lead to a formal indictment, but also raises the possibility of Chaem’s case being dropped.

While the judicial investigation against Chaem finished in December last year, the investigation against the other suspects in Case 004 – Ao An and Yim Tith – is still ongoing.

“The severance was ordered because of the charged person’s right to a determination of the charges brought against her without undue delay,” a statement released by the court yesterday said.

Dealing with Chaem’s case separately would allow for the proceedings against her to be brought to a “timely conclusion” while investigations into the remainder of Case 004 continued.

Long Panhavuth, a longtime court observer with the Cambodia Justice Initiative, said that separating Chaem’s case into Case 004/01 meant the court could issue an indictment to Chaem individually.

“They don’t need to wait until the investigation is finished for the two other suspects of Case 004,” he said.

If there was indeed sufficient evidence to substantiate the allegations, then there would be an indictment, tribunal spokesman Lars Olsen said yesterday. However, a dismissal could also occur if the investigation failed to meet certain criteria, such as sufficient evidence, or if the alleged crimes do not fall within the jurisdiction of the ECCC.

“It also depends on personal jurisdiction,” Olsen went on to say.

Personal jurisdiction refers to an aspect of the law under which the court was established, which stated that the body was only to try “senior leaders of Democratic Kampuchea and those who were most responsible” for the regime’s alleged crimes.

The question of whether Chaem met either of those criteria for prosecution was raised in the notice announcing the conclusion of the investigation against her last year.

In that announcement, the co-investigating judges said they had “requested submissions from the parties on whether Im Chaem should be considered a ‘senior leader of Democratic Kampuchea’ or among ‘those who were most responsible’”.

According to Heather Ryan, a court observer with the Open Society Justice Initiative, “That the co-investigating judges asked that question means they have some doubts about that.”

Speaking yesterday, Ryan noted that both the notice in December last year and yesterday’s severance order were signed by both the national and international judges, a significant fact given that national investigating judge You Bunleng had previously said that the case against Chaem should be dismissed.

“Here he is, after not participating in the investigation for the last several years . . . agreeing to sign a document closing the investigation and asking the question about Im Chaem being a person most responsible,” she said.

In the past, Bunleng has refused to sign off on investigations and has vocally opposed cases 003 and 004 going forward. His opposition to the controversial cases is in line with the views of the government at large, with Prime Minister Hun Sen having suggested that trying the cases would plunge the country into civil war.

Im Chaem was allegedly a district secretary in the Northwest Zone, and was charged in absentia on March 3 last year with homicide and crimes against humanity including murder, enslavement and imprisonment allegedly committed at the Spean Sreng worksite and at the Phnom Trayoung security centre, the latter also carrying charges of extermination and persecution on political grounds.

The charges were issued unilaterally by former international co-investigating judge Mark Harmon, who resigned on July 7 last year for personal reasons.

At the time she was charged, 72-year-old Chaem asked, “Why should I be worried about the charges against me?”

“I am not wrong, the person who charged me is wrong.”

MOST VIEWED

  • Phnom Penh unveils rules for post-lockdown transition

    The Phnom Penh Municipal Administration issued a set of detailed guidelines for the seven days to May 12 after the capital emerges from lockdown at the onset of May 6. In the 14-page document signed by municipal governor Khuong Sreng released on the evening of May 5, the

  • SBI LY HOUR Bank Launches Cross Border Money Transfer Service between Cambodia and Vietnam on RippleNet, utilizing DLT

    SBI LY HOUR Bank Plc and Hanoi-based Tien Phong Commercial Joint Stock Bank (TPBank) on Friday launched the first Cambodia-Vietnam money transfer service in real currency via RippleNet, provided by SBI Ripple Asia Co Ltd to provide safe, fast and convenient services. SBI LY HOUR

  • Gov’t issues guidelines as lockdown nears end

    The government has issued a five-page set of instructions to be enforced when the three-week lockdown of Phnom Penh and adjacent Takmao town in Kandal province ends on May 6. According to an announcement signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen on May 4, the instructions cover a

  • Cambodia ready to exit LDC status

    Cambodia is well-prepared to minimise economic risks when it graduates from its Least Developed Countries status, according to a senior official at the Ministry of Commerce on May 7. Four LDCs – Cambodia, Laos, Bangladesh and Nepal – met at a virtual workshop last week to explore potential

  • Tottenham Hotspur to wear ISF Cambodia logo on jerseys in match against Sheffield United

    Last year, the Indochina Starfish Foundation (ISF) – an NGO providing education to underprivileged children in Cambodia – made global headlines with its “socially distanced” football initiative. This year, a world-class football club – Tottenham Hotspur FC – will wear special edition jerseys to show their support for ISF

  • Nine US franchises eye Cambodia debut

    Nine famous US franchising companies are looking for business opportunities and expansion into Cambodia to build a footstep for a strong foundation in Southeast Asia. The US embassy in Phnom Penh, in partnership with the US Foreign Commercial Service and with support from the American