Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Khmer Rouge tribunal should lift the lid on cases 003 and 004




Khmer Rouge tribunal should lift the lid on cases 003 and 004

Former senior member of the Khmer Rouge Im Chaem sits underneath her house in Oddar Meanchey’s Anlong Veng District
Former senior member of the Khmer Rouge Im Chaem sits underneath her house in Oddar Meanchey’s Anlong Veng District last year. Charlotte Pert

Khmer Rouge tribunal should lift the lid on cases 003 and 004

Last week, in two short statements, the UN-backed Khmer Rouge tribunal announced that two additional suspects had been charged in absentia for crimes against humanity and other crimes.

The notification of charges by international co-investigating judge Mark Harmon against Khmer Rouge navy commander Meas Muth in Case 003 and district official Im Chaem in Case 004 comes six and a half years after the two cases were initiated.

Given that the notification of charges was not made jointly with the national co-investigating judge You Bunleng and as Cambodia’s prime minister recently reiterated government opposition to further prosecutions at the tribunal, serious questions must be asked as to where cases 003 and 004 are going.

But it is very difficult to try to answer these questions when the tribunal provides such scant public information on these two cases.

The statements announcing the charges against Meas Muth and Im Chaem were two paragraphs long and were the first public statements issued in over two years by the co-investigating judges.

In the absence of public information, Khmer Rouge victims and the Cambodian public are left to second guess and read between the lines.

In an interview with The Phnom Penh Post last week, tribunal spokesperson Lars Olsen explained that the decision to charge Meas Muth and Im Chaem in absentia was motivated in part because “it hasn’t been possible, within a reasonable time, to get any arrest warrants executed”.

This comment raises more questions than it answers.

Have arrest warrants been issued for Meas Muth and Im Chaem? Are the Cambodian police failing or refusing to execute these warrants, despite a legal obligation to do so under the UN-Cambodia agreement establishing the tribunal? And if so, what action will the tribunal take as a result?

The tribunal’s internal rules seek to strike a balance between transparency and confidentiality – outlining transparency in proceedings as a fundamental principle, while providing for confidentiality in judicial investigations.

In maintaining this balance, the co-investigating judges are given the discretion to “issue such information regarding a case under judicial investigation as they deem essential to keep the public informed of the proceedings”.

Taking Olsen’s statement at face value, if arrest warrants have been issued and the Cambodian authorities are either falling or refusing to execute them, the public should be informed.

At its inception, one of the stated advantages of the tribunal’s model was that its location in Cambodia would bring survivors closer to the criminal justice process. And while a number of victims have been granted civil party status in cases 003 and 004, victims of the Khmer Rouge span the length and breadth of the country numbering well in excess of the 1,960 civil party applications filed to date in these cases.

For the Cambodian public – including victims – to remain engaged with the tribunal and be brought closer to the criminal justice process, the co-investigating judges must lift the lid on Cases 003 and 004 and exercise their discretion to disclose information about critical developments in these cases.

Rupert Abbott is Amnesty International’s Research Director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific. He previously worked in the Khmer Rouge tribunal’s defence support section.

MOST VIEWED

  • All inbound flights set to face added scrutiny

    Ministry of Health spokesperson Or Vandine said on Monday that the ministry is monitoring all inbound flights, after it was announced that only those from Malaysia and Indonesia will be temporarily cancelled from August 1. Vandine said on Monday that the two countries were identified as

  • Flights from Indonesia, Malaysia cancelled

    A Ministry of Health official has warned of the possibility of Covid-19 spreading through community transmission after the total infected cases in the Kingdom rose to 225. Ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine told reporters on Saturday that the possibility of community transmission cannot be overlooked and that

  • Man in quarantine dies of ‘overdose’

    The Ministry of Health on Thursday said a Cambodian migrant worker who died while being isolated at a quarantine centre in Tbong Khmum province’s Kroch Chhmar district may have died from syncope or overdose of tablets. In a statement, the ministry said the 21-year-old

  • Ministry set to reopen 20 schools in August

    The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport will allow 20 high-safety-standards schools to reopen next month despite new cases of Covid-19 in the country. Ministry spokesperson Ros Soveacha wrote in a Telegram message on Wednesday that the schools are in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Battambang.