Prosecutors at the Khmer Rouge tribunal requested yesterday that 26 declassified US State Department cables be added to the case file, arguing that the decades-old missives detailing the lead-up to Phnom Penh’s fall shed unique light on the policy of evacuation at the heart of Case 002.
The cables, the prosecution argues in its filing, not only support evidence that co-accused Khieu Samphan attended high-level meetings of the Communist Party of Kampuchea’s (CPK) Central Committee, but also contradict prior Khmer Rouge claims that the evacuation of Phnom Penh was carried out in the interest of the safety and well-being of its citizens.
One cable quoted in the filing tells of six refugee children being “brutally executed by knife and bayonet”. Another describes the Khmer Rouge forces “ignoring [government troops’] defensive positions and ‘concentrat[ing] their attacks on villages, directing their fire at villagers rather than soldiers’”.
Quoting a memo on the fight for Kampong Cham town, the filing says that the Khmer Rouge “fired rockets and artillery shells point-blank into houses, so as to force out the residents hiding inside”.
The defence, particularly the defence team for Nuon Chea, has long argued that the evacuation of Phnom Penh was necessary to alleviate the dire situation and severe food shortages in the overcrowded capital.
However, the prosecution asserts, the new cables “assist in proving the purpose of CPK attacks on cities and towns, and refute the Defence position that the CPK had humanitarian goals or intentions in regards to the civilian and refugee population of Phnom Penh”.
Though originally declassified in 2005, the 1.7 million cables were only released in a searchable format earlier this month by the anti-secrecy organisation Wikileaks.
The prosecution says that fact makes the cables admissible, despite an internal rule requiring that “the requested testimony or evidence was not available before the opening of the trial”.