The Open Society Justice Initiative is urging the Cambodian government to fully meet its commitments to the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, following the tribunal’s decision to charge two alleged former Khmer Rouge senior leaders with crimes against humanity and war crimes.
The court announced on Tuesday, March 3, that the international investigating judge has issued charges against Meas Muth, the former Khmer Rouge naval commander, and Im Chaem, a senior regional commander.
The charges stem from a long running investigation that has been consistently opposed by Prime Minister Hun Sen and other senior government figures. The investigation has also been resisted by Cambodian judges who share investigative responsibilities with international judges on the hybrid tribunal.
The charges against Meas Muth and Im Chaem were brought in the name of the tribunal’s international co-investigating judge, Mark Harmon, without the support of his Cambodian counterpart. The two were also charged in absentia, because the cooperation of the Cambodian judicial police in bringing suspects before the case was not secured.
James A. Goldston, executive director of the Open Society Justice Initiative, said:
“The decision to charge Meas Muth and Im Chaem offers an important step forward in the much-delayed pursuit of justice for the victims of the atrocities covered in these two cases. The Cambodian government signed an agreement that requires it to support this prosecution; we urge them, and the international community, to stand by that commitment.”
If the charges result in an indictments against the accused, they will be reviewed by the pretrial chamber, which has three local and two international judges; however, the pretrial chamber would require four of its panel of five judges to oppose the case to prevent it going to trial.
The charges against Meas Muth involve accusations of torture and killing of Vietnamese, Thais and other foreigners captured at sea or on disputed island territory. Im Chaem headed a Khmer Rouge security center in the northwest where an estimated 40,000 people died.
The cases covering both Meas Muth (Case 003) and Im Chaem (Case 004) were handed over to the co-investigating judges in 2009 by the international co-prosecutor, acting again without the support of his local counterpart.
The Open Society Justice Initiative has maintained a presence in Phnom Penh to monitor developments at the Khmer Rouge tribunal since before it began court proceedings in 2007.