Rights groups urge more transparency for Khmer Rouge tribunal

[JURIST] A coalition of more than 30 rights groups and development organizations in Cambodia issued an open letter [text, PDF] Thursday urging the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) [official website] to embrace a greater degree of transparency. In the letter, the groups outline "grave concerns" that the highly classified nature of Case 3 and Case 4 [materials] betrays a lack of "genuine" effort to bring the former members of the Khmer Rouge [BBC profile; JURIST news archives] to justice and implicates that the "impartiality, integrity and ... independence of ECCC judges are being tainted." The accusation comes amid mounting speculation that Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen [BBC profile] has exerted undue influence over the court's proceedings. Hun has drawn criticism [Phnom Penh Post report] from rights groups and the international community for his public and at-times vehement opposition [AP report] to the continued work of the ECCC. The court further stoked suspicion Wednesday when it ordered [order, PDF; JURIST report] international co-prosecutor Andrew Cayley to recant statements he made earlier this month in a public brief [text, PDF] on the facts of Case 3. According to the court, the co-prosecutor lacked a "legal basis" for issuing statements about "crimes required to be judicially investigated" and violated the confidentiality provisions of the Internal Rules of the ECCC [text, PDF]. The groups' letter emphasized the Cambodian people's right to know such information:

One of the functions being fulfilled by the ECCC is to create an historical record about what happened. It is imperative that this record is as complete and accurate as possible. ... The Cambodians have a right to justice. ... In order to effectively exercise this right, all Cambodians need access to publicly available information. Ample information can be provided to victims while safeguarding the rights of those alleged to have perpetrated Khmer Rouge atrocities according to the highest international standards.
The groups said that they are "concerned that the mandate of the court ... is at risk of not being genuinely carried out" and emphasized that ECCC judges should be "prohibited from accepting or seeking any instructions from any government[.]"

Last October, Hun Sen informed UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official website] in a meeting that the government will not allow [JURIST report] the prosecution of low-ranking Khmer Rouge officers by the ECCC. Earlier this week in ECCC Case 2 [materials], a panel of judges denied a motion for pretrial release [JURIST report] by former Khmer Rouge official Ieng Sary [ECCC backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. Ieng, 85, served as deputy foreign minister under the Khmer Rouge regime during its reign in Cambodia from 1975-1979. Citing the ECCC rules and the Cambodian rules of criminal procedure, he argued that the court had no authority to detain a prisoner for more than three years without certain substantive rulings, making his detention illegal since November 2010. Ieng's co-defendants Nuon Chea, Khieu Samphan and Ieng Thirith [ECCC backgrounders] have all challenged pretrial custody unsuccessfully. In March, Kaing Guek Eav [ECCC backgrounder; JURIST news archive], a former prison chief at the notorious Toul Sleng prison under the Khmer Rouge, better known as "Duch," appealed a 35-year sentence for war crimes and crimes against humanity handed down by the ECCC [JURIST reports] last July. The conviction was the court's first since its founding in 2006.

 

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