A group of human rights organizations and individuals Thursday filed a complaint to the International Criminal Court in The Hague, accusing Prime Minister Hun Sen and his government of genocide, crimes against humanity and other human rights abuses.
The 30-page complaint argues there is a legal basis for the ICC to pursue a case against Mr. Hun Sen and his administration.
“There are two key elements of the complaint to the ICC,” said Morton Sklar, a U.S.-based lawyer and executive director of the World Organization for Human Rights, who is representing the complainants.
“One is Hun Sen’s involvement in a cover-up of the genocide abuses of the Khmer Rouge regime through his efforts to stop the prosecution of cases by the Khmer Rouge tribunal,” he said. The second, he added, “focuses on a widespread, systematic and long-standing pattern and practice of harshly oppressive human rights abuses committed against the Cambodian people by the Hun Sen government, including a pattern of executions, forced evictions and transfers of the population, and sexual abuse of detainees.”
The complaint names Mr. Hun Sen as complicit in “aiding and abetting” acts of genocide by trying to obstruct the prosecution of two cases at the Khmer Rouge tribunal involving five mid-level Khmer Rouge suspects accused of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Mr. Hun Sen and other government officials have repeatedly declared that the cases will not be allowed to proceed and would threaten the country’s stability.
The complaint charges that the government also demonstrated a “systematic” practice of suppressing dissent. It cites January garment strikes that were violently shut down by government forces, including the 911 paratrooper battlefield unit commanded by General Chap Pheakdey, who is also named in the complaint.
The complaint cites evictions of people from their homes across the country, as well as the sexual abuse of women in prison, and killings of citizens by government forces as further indicators that crimes against humanity are being committed in Cambodia.
The complainants ask ICC prosecutors to “initiate a preliminary investigation of the violations that have been alleged,” and, if they deem it necessary, to bring a case against the prime minister.
Among the complainants are: Bunrith Ngin, a Khmer Rouge victim participating in the Cambodia tribunal; the U.S.-based Me Boun Foundation, which works with people affected by landmines; and Rob Hamill, whose brother Kerry Hamill was executed during the Khmer Rouge regime.
Other complainants are being kept confidential, the document says, because of information received that “the Hun Sen government is likely to be planning to take reprisals against complainants and their family members in Cambodia if their identities are revealed.”
Clair Duffy, a senior legal adviser with the International Bar Association’s ICC Program in The Hague, said the ICC’s Office of the Prosecutor has received 597 communications like the one filed Thursday between November 1, 2012 and October 31, 2013.
“Of these, 503 were outside the Court’s jurisdiction; 21 required further analysis; 41 were linked to a situation already under analysis; and 32 were linked to an investigation or prosecution,” Ms. Duffy said.
The court uses a four-stage process to determine which cases it will pursue.
As for the allegations within the complaint, Ms. Duffy said there is “prima facie sound evidence of systematic human rights violations—and crimes—being carried out by Cambodian government agents over the past few years, certainly since the ICC’s jurisdiction came into effect.”
“In favor of international criminal investigation is the systematic nature of these abuses, which have gradually escalated in recent years, especially since last year’s election,” Ms. Duffy said. “Everything would depend on the evidence linking Hun Sen to the commission of such crimes.”
Sok Sam Oeun, executive director of the Cambodian Defenders’ Project, said that for the complaint to be taken seriously, it would have to show that Mr. Hun Sen had directly committed crimes such as genocide.
“I don’t think so [that it will be taken seriously],” he said. “I don’t know why they did that [make the complaint], because I think that we must use the ICC very carefully, otherwise it will lose value and lose the confidence in the court.”
Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said in response to the complaint that it “is making Hun Sen famous now.”
“What are the elements to support a case against whoever—a genocidal case, as well as crimes against humanity?” he asked, adding, “I hope that lawyers shall not manipulate this for political interests.”