The Phnom Penh Municipal Court has thrown out a lawsuit filed in October by lawyers for Khmer Rouge ideologue Nuon Chea against Prime Minister Hun Sen and 10 other senior government and CPP officials, a court official said yesterday.
Sok Roeun, the deputy prosecutor in charge of the case, said he had put a stop to judicial proceedings brought by Nuon Chea’s international lawyers, Michiel Pestman and Andy Ianuzzi, because of security concerns and a lack of evidence.
“There are dozens of reasons to support my decision, because we found no evidence to prove that these officials committed crimes as alleged by these defense lawyers,” Mr. Roeun said.
“One of the most important and key reasons for not proceeding goes back to the agreement the Cambodian government signed with the UN that acknowledges concerns about safety, security and political stability,” the deputy prosecutor added.
Mr. Pestman and Mr. Ianuzzi sued the prime minister and other top officials, including Information Minister Khieu Kanharith and Foreign Minister Hor Namhong, for criminal interference in the work of the Khmer Rouge tribunal.
The lawyers had claimed that Mr. Hun Sen had pressured six high-level witnesses in the case against their client not to give evidence to investigating judges. And they said the prime minister had publicly opposed two other cases, known as 003 and 004, at the Khmer Rouge tribunal.
The Nuon Chea lawyers had also sued the six “insider witnesses,” who included Finance Minister Keat Chhon and National Assembly President Heng Samrin, for flouting summonses from co-investigating judges to testify at the tribunal.
To support their claims, the lawyers had provided the municipal court with dozens of media reports quoting government officials opposing cases 003 and 004, including Mr. Hun Sen’s blunt statement to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that the cases were “not allowed,” and a comment by Mr. Kanharith stating that foreign court investigators wanting to pursue the case should pack their bags and leave Cambodia.
But Mr. Roeun said there was nonetheless a dearth of evidence for their claims.
“[Mr. Hun Sen] recently spoke at the faculty of law and stated that there was no interference in the tribunal, and the co-investigating judges also released a statement denying all the alleged interference,” Mr. Roeun said.
In fact, former Co-Investigating Judge Siegfried Blunk cited government interference when he abruptly resigned in mid-October, although he was careful not to say that he himself had been influenced.
Judge Blunk’s more outspoken replacement, Laurent Kasper-Ansermet, has still not been officially appointed because the Supreme Council of the Magistracy has thus far declined to convene to appoint him as Judge Blunk’s replacement.
Mr. Pestman said yesterday that he had not yet received official word that the suit had been thrown out.
“We’re going to appeal, that’s for sure,” he said. “We haven’t seen the reasons for the rejection, so I’m curious to know the reasons why.”
Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Ministers and one of the officials who was sued by the two lawyers, also had not heard that the case was dropped by the court and declined to comment on its merits until he had spoken to his lawyer.
But he added: “According to open society and the rule of law, they have a right to sue me, and by law, everyone has the right to sue everyone, government or not government.”
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