For at least the second time since the Khmer Rouge tribunal began operations in 2007, a confidential prosecution record containing allegations against suspects under investigation has been leaked to the news media.
A 2008 introductory submission bringing crimes against humanity charges against the commanders of the revolutionary navy and air force had by yesterday been obtained by at least two newspapers, including The Cambodia Daily, and had reportedly also been passed to a news agency.
An article appearing yesterday in The Christian Science Monitor quoted extensively from the document, which constitutes the basis of the court’s Case 003, which was opened over Prime Minister Hun Sen’s objections in 2009.
In a statement yesterday evening, the court’s co-investigating judges warned that anyone publishing information from the document could be subject to proceedings for contempt of court.
The leak occurs as the court faces intensifying public denunciations for failing to disclose information and for its alleged acquiescence in government demands to suppress its current investigations.
The identities of the suspects in Case 003, air force commander Sou Met and navy commander Meas Muth, have been public knowledge since April, but the court has not publicly identified the suspects.
The court’s Case 003 investigation was concluded at the end of that month, but the suspects were not questioned or notified of any charges and only 17 witnesses were interviewed.
International Co-Prosecutor Andrew Cayley’s requests for further investigation have been rejected and the judges have sanctioned him for releasing information in an attempt to assist victims seeking reparations.
In a statement on Wednesday, Amnesty International expressed frustration that is now widespread both outside the court and within it, claiming that the impending dismissal of the two current investigations was occurring “amid an atmosphere of excessive and unnecessary secrecy” and risked undermining efforts to deliver justice.
But the leak also represented a wholesale breach of the court’s confidentiality, revealing that the secrecy of witness identities and other evidence had been compromised and was circulating among an unknown number of people.
The Associated Press in 2007 quoted from the court’s first introductory submission, and an unredacted version of the court’s first indictment against secret police chairman Kaing Guek Eav was in 2008 posted to the Internet.
Dim Sovannarom, the court’s acting spokesman, said yesterday that he could not confirm the document’s authenticity, but that should it prove authentic this would be a “shame.” He called for the respect of the presumption of innocence.
“The judges may take necessary action concerning this problem,” he said, denying that the court was unnecessarily secretive or that investigations were subject to political pressure.
“The judges are performing their work in conformity with the law,” he said.
Much information concerning the case had already been disclosed prior to the leak and Mr Cayley, the prosecutor, had already publicly identified its crime scenes.
In their statement, Judges Siegfried Blunk and You Bunleng said that they had received “credible information” that the document had been “divulged by a disloyal staff member” and that “warning is hereby given that anyone publishing information from this confidential document” was liable to sanctions for contempt of court.
Since the start of operations in 2007, the court has never imposed such sanctions.
Anne Heindel, a legal adviser to the Documentation Center of Cambodia, said yesterday that the leak was an extreme measure that suggested a high level of internal frustration with the court’s handling of Case 003.
The violation of confidentiality was “tremendously regrettable” but “going along with that confidentiality is the assumption that the judges are doing their job,” she said, adding that all signs were that the judges were “burying the case.”
The leak “indicates that someone was disgruntled enough to feel that this release was necessary,” she said.