Investigations in cases 003, 004 have focused on personal jurisdiction, judge says
The government has fired back against a slew of recent accusations that its officials are meddling in the work of the Khmer Rouge tribunal, declaring in a statement late yesterday that it “has never interfered and will never interfere” in the court.
The tribunal’s Cambodian investigating judge also spoke out yesterday for the first time since the resignation of his foreign counterpart, who quit on Monday over political interference. In a statement, Judge You Bunleng said he found Siegfried Blunk’s resignation “very surprising,” and resolved “to resist any attempts to interfere into his work.”
But he admitted that, more than two years after the government-opposed cases 003 and 004 were opened by prosecutors, his investigation into the cases is still focused on “personal jurisdiction”—or whether the suspects can be prosecuted by the tribunal in the first place.
Both Judges Blunk and Bunleng have been under fire for months over their failure to conduct thorough investigations into the two cases. They stopped investigating Case 003 in April without even interviewing the suspects or visiting crime scenes. Senior officials have made it clear on multiple occasions that the government does not want the cases to move forward. Some, including the prime minister, have gone so far as to say they are “not allowed.”
Most recently, on Monday, Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said: “We will stand on our ground regarding the ECCC. There will be no case 003 or 004.”
Still, in yesterday’s statement issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the government insisted that no interference has occurred, and that Cambodia “understands very well that it is at the exclusive discretion of the ECCC to decide who to indict.”
The statement also takes a dig at the UN, pointing out that Prime Minister Hun Sen was able to disband the last remnants of the Khmer Rouge by offering amnesty to defectors—a strategy referred to by the government as the “Win-Win policy”—whereas the $1.5 billion Untac mission to Cambodia failed to subdue Pol Pot and his followers.
“‘The Win-Win policy was a price to pay in order to bring complete peace, national territorial unity and national reconciliation,” the government statement said, without referring specifically to cases 003 and 004.
“It is [the government’s] responsibility to voice concern over any development that would endanger peace and national reconciliation in Cambodia.”
Days before cases 003 and 004 were opened in September 2009, Prime Minister Hun Sen predicted that Cambodia would be plunged back into a bloody civil war if the tribunal “prosecuted without thinking of peace and national reconciliation.”
The Khmer Rouge leaders accused in cases 003 and 004 worked at a lower level than the senior officials indicted in Case 002. They include military commanders, a district secretary and two sector chiefs.
The tribunal is mandated to try both “senior leaders” and “those most responsible” for Khmer Rouge atrocities. Upon opening cases 003 and 004, international prosecutors said the five additional suspects clearly fell under the court’s jurisdiction. They were allegedly responsible for large-scale purges and executions, resulting in the deaths of tens of thousands of Cambodians.
But in an August press release, the co-investigating judges wrote that they had “serious doubts whether the suspects are ‘most responsible’ according to the jurisdictional requirement of…ECCC Law.”
Yesterday, Judge Bunleng said that he and Judge Blunk had shared a “common approach” to “focus investigation on personal jurisdiction, as stated in the joint Press Release dated 08 August.”
The Open Society Justice Initiative, a group that monitors the court, wrote in its most recent report on the tribunal that “sources inside the court have long indicated that Cases 003/004 were likely to be dismissed through a ‘decision’ from the co-investigating judges that the five are not ‘senior leaders’ or ‘those most responsible’ and therefore do not fall under the court’s jurisdiction.”
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