Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Stay a ‘denial of due process’



Stay a ‘denial of due process’

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Judge Martin Karopkin (centre left) poses for a photograph with Norwegian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Morten Hoglun (centre right) during a visit in 2015. ECCC

Stay a ‘denial of due process’

A trial judge at the Khmer Rouge tribunal spoke out against the co-investigating judges’ office yesterday, calling the decision to keep a proposed stay of proceedings in the three cases confidential a “denial of due process”.

On Friday, the Office of the Co-Investigating Judges issued a confidential document on cases 003, 004 and 004/2. According to an excerpt obtained by The Post, the judges are considering a permanent stay of proceedings in the trials of Meas Muth, Ao An and Yim Tith on June 30 due to budget constraints. Such a decision would mean the cases would never be reopened, and that after nearly a decade of investigation the case files would remain sealed.

Following The Post’s revelations, the court issued a statement on Monday, acknowledging funding concerns and defending the confidentiality of the document due to the “highly sensitive nature of the issue” and the fact that the cases are still in the investigative stage.

Reached for comment, reserve trial chamber Judge Martin Karopkin said the document should never have been confidential, explaining that any discussion on the funding of the court is “purely administrative” and should be a matter of public record. “In my opinion it is a misuse of judicial power to declare such matters confidential,” he said.

While Karopkin was not the leaker, he did defend the act, pointing out that otherwise, the public would only have found out about the termination of the cases after the fact.

“Only the ‘regrettable’ disclosure of this information made it possible for interested parties and the public to know what was going on before that happened,” he said in reference to the court press release.

Karopkin also criticised the motion as being “not a negotiation but a judicial ultimatum”, something he said was a “denial of due process”.

“This document … does not allow for any discussion of the key issue – whether the dismissal of cases is a measured and reasonable response to the alleged financial crisis.

It states by fiat that the dismissal will occur and merely asks for suggestions as to how to make it happen,” he said. “I don’t think the actions of the co-investigating judges advance those goals of an open and free society.”

Multiple sources have expressed doubt that the court’s financial situation is dire enough to warrant terminating the cases entirely.

John Ciorciari, an American legal expert who has studied the ECCC, said the budget crisis itself might have resulted from the government’s opposition to seeing the cases through. Prime Minister Hun Sen has said on multiple occasions that pursuing prosecutions beyond Case 002 could cause civil war.

“One can understand why donors may be reluctant to invest more in Cases 003 and 004 given the government’s sustained public opposition. A permanent stay of proceedings would be a kind of judicial euthanasia – a quiet ending but certainly not a satisfying one,” he said via email.

“There are legitimate legal debates to be had over Cases 003 and 004. Sadly, it is increasingly likely that considerations of law and evidence will not determine the outcomes,” he added.

On Monday, long-time court observers Long Panhavuth and Youk Chhang criticised the court’s transparency, with Panhavuth saying that funding would always be available if the court operated fairly and independently.

“[I question] whether or not donors like to put money in when the court is operating in the vacuum … without giving notice to the public,” Panhavuth said.

“The court must have the principle of justice,” Chhang said, adding it would leave a “horrible legacy” if the cases were dismissed without proper explanation.

An ECCC spokesperson declined to comment and said International Investigating Judge Michael Bohlander, whose office issued the document, would not respond to requests for comment.

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