A request by lawyers for Case 003 suspect Meas Muth to have an arrest warrant for the former Khmer Rouge navy commander suspended has failed, though Cambodian authorities remain unwilling to carry out the order.
Although national and international judges from the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia’s Pre-Trial Chamber (PTC) were unable to reach the required 4-1 consensus on the request, the rules of the court leave the warrant valid, according to court documents released yesterday.
The Muth defence, on June 8, filed to the PTC an urgent request for the stay of execution of the arrest warrant issued by former international co-investigating judge Mark Harmon on June 4.
The warrant was the second issued by Harmon – who has since resigned and been replaced by Germany’s Michael Bohlander – superseding an order from December.
Instead of filing their request to the Office of the Co-Investigating Judges, Muth’s lawyers argued the five-member PTC should consider the submission.
They contended that arresting their client before the PTC had considered their appeal against Harmon’s decision in March to charge Muth in absentia with crimes against humanity would violate his rights to liberty and a fair trial.
The three national judges, Prak Kimsan, Ney Thol and Huot Vuthy, agreed, stating that arresting Muth would be “humiliating” and affect his “honour, dignity and rights substantially and irremediably”.
However, international judges Oliver Beauvallet and Steven J Bwana disagreed.
They reasoned the matter did not fall within the PTC’s purview and, further, Muth’s rights were safeguarded because arresting the former cadre did not automatically mean he would be detained.
“The purpose of the Arrest Warrant is to bring Meas Muth before the International Co-Investigating Judge for a hearing which will examine the possibility of his provisional detention,” they wrote.
The government has long resisted efforts to pursue cases 003 and 004, which pursues targets beyond the highest-level leadership of the extreme-Maoist regime, estimated to have overseen the deaths of more than 1.5 million people.
Though warrants have been issued for Muth as well as Case 004 suspect Im Chaem, the judicial police have ignored the orders.
Responding via email, Muth’s international counsel Michael Karnavas said that, although they disagreed with the outcome, his team respected the process.