An article published in the latest edition of the Court Report, a monthly publication put out by the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), has left the defense lawyers for suspect Meas Muth “dumbfounded” by what they call “astonishing conclusions about crimes purportedly committed during the 1975-79 period,” according to a letter of complaint they sent on Thursday.
In the letter, sent to the court’s public affairs section, lawyers Ang Udom and Michael Karnavas write that the offending article, “Exploring Transgenerational Justice at the ECCC,” infers criminal guilt against suspects at the Khmer Rouge tribunal and undermines efforts to uphold a fair judicial process.
The article, which was seemingly removed from the ECCC’s website on Thursday along with the rest of the November Court Report, is quoted in the letter as saying: “Under the Khmer Rouge regime…nearly 2 million Cambodians died and some of the most gruesome crimes against humanity were perpetrated, including unlawful imprisonment, enslavement, political and cultural persecution, torture and inhumane treatment, displacement as well as mass killings.”
It also apparently asserted that a genocide was perpetrated in Cambodia, although the question of whether the Khmer Rouge committed genocide is still under consideration by the ECCC.
Noting that the article does not name specific individuals in the Khmer Rouge hierarchy, the lawyers for Meas Muth, the commander of the regime’s navy, said in their letter that its presumption of guilt in such atrocities is nonetheless “shocking.”
“The use of the verb ‘perpetrate’ indicates that a legal judgment has been reached as to whether these crimes were committed and who committed them,” the letter said.
“If, as this essay seems to suggest, guilt has already been determined, why go through any labor-intensive investigations and trials? Why bother affording suspects and accused persons any fair trial rights? Why should the United Nations spend so many millions of dollars on this endeavor?”
The letter asked for a redaction of the article and the issuance of “a revised Court Report purged of all language that violates the presumption of innocence” against suspects at the ECCC.
Dim Sovannarom, chief of the tribunal’s public affairs section, declined to comment on the letter on Thursday.