A justice group has slammed the UN-backed Khmer Rouge tribunal for “turning a blind eye” to government interference and failing to disclose details surrounding authorities’ refusal to arrest Case 003 and 004 suspects Meas Muth and Im Chaem.
The criticism by the Open Society Justice Initiative (OSJI) yesterday came as Human Rights Watch called on the international community to cut the court’s funding unless Cambodian authorities cooperate with the cases against the former senior Khmer Rouge officials. The pair are charged with, among other things, crimes against humanity including murder, enslavement and extermination in relation to purges and Khmer Rouge security centres.
In separate statements, both groups called the failure of the Cambodian judicial police to arrest the suspects a “mockery”.
The pair was charged in absentia by international co-investigating judge Mark Harmon on March 3, who acted without the support of his national counterpart You Bunleng and in the face of strong government opposition.
At the time, Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia communications officer Lars Olsen said the duo was charged in absentia because “it has not been possible, within a reasonable time, to get any arrest warrants executed”.
Yesterday, Olsen refused to confirm whether arrest warrants had been issued, citing confidentiality. Declining to comment on the criticisms, he referred questions about why warrants weren’t executed to the judicial police, whose director general, Mao Chandara, declined to comment.
Muth’s lawyer, Ang Udom, confirmed his team was preparing an appeal against an arrest warrant.
In its briefing, the OSJI said authorities’ refusal to arrest the pair violated the agreement between the ECCC and government, which it blamed for orchestrating the non-cooperation.
“Here, the accused are readily available for arrest, they have been giving interviews to the press, and the judicial police are apparently defying a court order to arrest them. The situation makes a mockery of the court,” it said.
The group called the ECCC’s unwillingness to address or fully acknowledge the interference “even more appalling” than the government’s attempts to block the cases.
Amnesty International’s Rupert Abbott agreed the ECCC’s silence was concerning.
“There is a lack of transparency, which is very sad for the victims and for the Cambodian people,” he said.
Accusing the Cambodian government of “blocking justice”, Human Rights Watch’s Brad Adams called for the international community to act.
“If the government fails to act quickly on the judge’s charges, then it’s time the UN ends its participation and for donors to stop funding the tribunal,” Adams said.
However, yesterday, representatives of the US, France, Germany and the UK pledged their support to the ECCC.
“While any form of political interference in ongoing court procedures is unacceptable, withdrawing support for the court would be the wrong signal,” said German Ambassador Joachim Baron von Marschall.