A U.S.-backed rights group and Khmer Rouge tribunal monitor separately slammed the Cambodian government and the U.N. on Monday for their failure to make arrests after charges were laid in absentia against former regime navy chief Meas Muth and district commander Im Chaem on March 3.
In a briefing paper, the Open Society Justice Initiative (OSJI) said that due to a lack of transparency in the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), it was impossible to know why no arrests have been made since the charges were laid by International Co-Investigating Judge Mark Harmon in the government-opposed cases 003 and 004.
“Apparently at least one arrest warrant was issued in Cases 003 and 004 by Judge Harmon, but it was not honored or executed by the judicial police,” the OSJI report says.
“The court’s inadequate transparency regarding the lack of cooperation in executing court orders makes it impossible to know whether the judicial police outright refused to execute the warrants, made excuses for such failure, dragged their feet, or forestalled the issuance of such warrants by indicating in advance their unwillingness to execute them,” it continues.
“However, the details do not change the basic nature or impact of the non-cooperation. There is no excuse and no precedent for the judicial police’s refusal to carry out a court order.”
Mao Chandara, who is in charge of police at the ECCC, declined to comment when asked about the cases Monday. Neth Pheaktra, a spokesman for the tribunal, also declined to explain why no arrests have been made.
“Co-investigating judges are still working on the case, but other than that there are no updates,” he said.
In a separate statement from Human Rights Watch (HRW), the group called on the U.N., which agreed to back the ECCC in 2003, to withdraw from the tribunal if the government continued to obstruct the prosecution of Meas Muth and Im Chaem.
“The Cambodian government’s refusal to cooperate in bringing Khmer Rouge leaders before the U.N.-backed tribunal would be the last straw after years of obstruction, delay and corruption,” Brad Adams, Asia director for HRW, is quoted as saying in the report.
“If the government fails to act quickly on the judge’s charges, then it’s time the U.N. end its participation and for donors to stop funding the tribunal. Further support would just make a mockery of justice for millions of victims and their families,” Mr. Adams says.
In its statement, OSJI said the failure of the U.N. and the court’s international officials to publicly address the issue was “appalling.”
“By moving forward as if nothing is wrong, they raise concerns about whether they have the will or the ability to enforce the Agreement, and even whether they might conduct trials in absentia in order to avoid addressing the real problem of political interference,” the statement says.
Prime Minister Hun Sen has repeatedly stated his objection to cases 003 and 004, claiming that further prosecutions of former-Khmer Rouge officials could see the recurrence of violent instability.
Both Meas Muth, who stands accused of killing Khmer Rouge cadre along with Vietnamese, Thai and other foreigners caught at sea, and Im Cheam, who is suspected of enacting purges in the Northwest Zone, expressed little concern over the charges they face.
Asked earlier this month what he thought of the charges, Meas Muth said he was more concerned with farming his crops in Battambang province. Im Chaem suggested that Judge Harmon be put in jail for filing the charges.
(Additional reporting by Khuon Narim)