Civil party suit planned in politically charged case
Human rights activist Theary Seng announced yesterday she would file a complaint at the Khmer Rouge tribunal seeking reparations against Im Chem, Ta Tith and Ta An, three mid-level Khmer Rouge leaders being investigated in the court’s fourth case.
The three suspects are alleged to have committed crimes against humanity and genocide resulting in more than 100,000 deaths, but the judicial investigation against them has met with resolute opposition from the government and is expected to be dropped soon under political pressure.
Neither they nor the suspects in Case 003, revolutionary military commanders Sou Met and Meas Muth, have ever been publicly identified by the court. Details on their alleged crimes have not been divulged.
The dearth of public information about the politically inconvenient cases has so far prevented other potential civil parties—who could number in the thousands—from coming forward to seek reparations against Im Chem, Ta Tith and Ta An.
“The lack of transparency in these investigations is almost indicative of a deliberate attempt on the part of the co-investigating judges to sideline as many interests in these cases as possible,” said
“The lack of transparency in these investigations is almost indicative of a deliberate attempt on the part of the co-investigating judges to sideline as many interests in these cases as possible,” said Clair Duffy, a court monitor for the Open Society Justice Initiative.
Last month, Ms Seng and New Zealander Rob Hamill filed similar complaints against Sou Met and Meas Muth. The tribunal at the time called Ms Seng “reckless” for publicly naming the suspects.
She has moved forward with another complaint nonetheless, attempting to hold Im Chem, Ta Tith and Ta An responsible for the deaths of her parents and for her own childhood imprisonment under the Khmer Rouge regime. She said her civil party applications were a last-ditch effort to spur judges to release more information on cases 003 and 004, and to encourage other potential civil parties to come forward.
“I am very, very frustrated,” Ms Seng said yesterday. “It’s an abuse of power. It’s gross negligence of their duty to inform the public. There are matters which are confidential, but they are overusing and overstepping that.”
Lars Olsen, the tribunal’s spokesman on legal issues, declined to comment on the substance of Ms Seng’s application, but once again criticized her attempt to bring suspects’ names into the open.
“As I’ve said before, names appearing in the public are pure speculation, and I cannot confirm or deny anything,” he said. “It’s regrettable that this practice continues.”
Ms Seng and Mr Hamill remain the only two civil party applicants attached to Case 003, despite the fact that the investigation was quietly closed on Friday, giving victims only until May 14 to file complaints.
In a statement yesterday, the Documentation Center of Cambodia said the lack of public information effectively denied victims the ability to seek legal remedy in the two cases.
“The million of Cambodian survivors of the regime deserve to know what the ECCC is doing in their name, yet the court has provided no meaningful information to the public about cases 003 and 004 since the [co-investigating judges] began their investigations 20 months ago,” said DC-Cam’s director, Youk Chhang.
UN prosecutors in 2009 identified 32 factual situations of murder, torture, unlawful detention, forced labor, and persecution allegedly committed by Ta Tith, Ta An and Im Chem. The majority of these allegations do not appear in the court’s first two cases, meaning that nobody will be held responsible for most of these alleged crimes if Case 004 is dismissed.
Ta Tith and Ta An were both members of the central committee of the Communist Party of Kampuchea, formally the regime’s highest governing body. Ta Tith was also a member of the Northwest Zone committee and secretary of Sector 1, while Ta An served as deputy secretary of the Central Zone.
Together, Ta Tith and Ta An were responsible for a network of at least 25 security centers that claimed the lives of over 100,000 people, according to records on file with the prosecution.
Im Chem, currently a deputy commune chief in Oddar Meanchey’s Anlong Veng district, was secretary of Preah Netr Preah district in the Northwest Zone during the Khmer Rouge regime, and is believed to have approved lists of people to be executed.
She could not be reached for comment yesterday, and contact information for the other two Case 004 suspects was unavailable. But at a forum last year held in Anlong Veng, she said she did not fear arrest or prosecution by the Khmer Rogue tribunal because she was just a mid-level cadre.
“I did not do anything guilty,” Im Chem said then. “I was in the [Khmer Rouge] due to the existence of civil war, but there were many leaders.”
(Additional reporting by Neou Vannarin)