[JURIST] Human rights lawyer Morton Sklar urged the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website; JURIST backgrounder] on Thursday to investigate attacks in Cambodia on political opponents of Prime Minister Hun Sen [BBC profile]. Sklar accused [AP report] the Cambodian authorities of a systematic pattern of crimes to silence dissenting opinions and protect former Khmer Rouge [BBC backgrounder, news archive] leaders from prosecutions. Sklar claimed that Sen interfered directly with the with the Khmer Rouge tribunal [official website; JURIST news archive]. The ICC cannot prosecute crimes committed before its establishment in 2002. Sklar argues though, that the attempts to protect former Khmer Rouge members at trial happened after the court's inception.
The Khmer Rouge, the ruling party in Cambodia from 1975 to 1979, is responsible for the deaths of more than 1.7 million people, who died from starvation, disease, overwork and execution. The movement aimed to create an "agrarian utopia" [BBC backgrounder], seeking to abolish money, private property and religion. In June 2011 the tribunal began hearings [JURIST report] for four of the regime's former leaders. Nuon Chea, the group's chief ideologist and second in command, and former head of state Khieu Camphan [ECCC profiles] have been charged with war crimes and are currently being prosecuted by the tribunal. Ieng Thirith and Ieng Sary were also arrested and charged in 2007, but Sary died while on trial and Thirith has been released [JURIST reports] after being declared unfit to stand trial.