Officials at the Khmer Rouge tribunal and independent legal observers said yesterday that the summonsing of six senior CPP officials as witnesses by the Khmer Rouge tribunal was in line with the court’s rules, despite a claim to the contrary on Tuesday by Foreign Minister Hor Namhong-one of those summoned.
During a press conference at the Foreign Affairs Ministry on Tuesday, Mr Namhong said he has ignored the summons because the court’s letter bore the signature of only one of the Khmer Rouge tribunal’s two investigating judges.
“According to the agreement between the Royal Government of Cambodia and the UN, there are two judges who must sign it, Khmer and foreigner,” Mr Namhong said at the press conference. “[Co-Investigating Judge] Marcel Lemonde violated the rule of law and signed it by himself. So as a member of the government I could not accept it,” the minister said.
Judge Lemonde in September issued summonses for the six men-Mr Namhong, Senate President Chea Sim, National Assembly President Heng Samrin, Finance Minister Keat Chhon and Senators Sim Ka and Ouk Bunchhoeun.
The tribunal’s Co-investigating Judge You Bunleng, however, resisted summoning the six, saying their testimony was unnecessary and unlikely to prove useful.
In a Jan 11 note to all parties, Judge Lemonde called their testimony “necessary,” but could not be compelled due to “considerable practical difficulties.”
Judge Lemonde could not be reached for comment yesterday. But Yuko Maeda, a public affairs officer for the tribunal, said the judge did not wish to respond to Mr Namhong’s remarks.
“It is not for a judge to engage in controversy with a witness, and Judge Lemonde will not respond to Mr Hor Namhong’s comments,” Ms Maeda wrote in an e-mail on Mr Lemonde’s behalf.
“It must be emphasized that the summonses in question were delivered pursuant to Rule 72.3 of the [tribunal’s] Internal Rules,” she added.
The tribunal’s internal rule 72.3 states that any action or decision the investigating judges fail to agree on “shall be executed,” with three exceptions: an arrest or detention order; a notification of charges; or any decision open to appeal by either a civil party or someone who’s been charges.
Anne Heindel, a legal advisor to the Documentation Center of Cambodia, said Judge Lemonde was within the rules of the court in issuing the summonses.
“If there’s a disagreement and [the investigating judges] take note of it, they can proceed,” Ms Heindel said.
Sok Sam Oeun, executive director of the free legal aid organization Cambodian Defenders Project, also agreed with Judge Lemonde.
“For a summons, only one can sign it,” Mr Sam Oeun said.
Contacted yesterday, Judge Bunleng declined to comment.
Koy Kuong, spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, reiterated Mr Namhong’s opinion yesterday saying that both judges were required to sign the summons letter.
More recently, judges Bunleng and Lemonde have also parted company over the politically sensitive issue of whether to proceed with the investigation of new Khmer Rouge suspects.
In a June 2 memo, Judge Lemonde urged his court counterpart to sign rogatory letters-written instructions empowering investigators-for the new investigations. After initially signing the letters, Mr Bunleng then removed his name, saying that he needed to further consider the request.
The UN’s spokesman at the tribunal, Lars Olsen, said last week that Judge Lemonde would proceed with the investigations on his own.
As in the case of the summons letters, Ms Heindel, of DC-CAM, said the court’s internal rules allow either investigating judge to proceed with an investigation without the other.
“Lemonde is allowed to proceed with the investigation until either he or Bunleng bring it to the [tribunal’s] Pre-Trial Chamber,” she said.
After either judge records a disagreement with the court, tribunal rules say he can raise the issue with the Pre-Trial Chamber, which is charged with resolving such differences, within 30 days. But what happens if those 30 days pass without a resolution, Ms Heindel added, the rules don’t seem to say.
Officials at the Pre-Trial Chamber could not be reached yesterday for comment.
Last year, Prime Minister Hun Sen publicly warned that pursuing Khmer Rouge suspects beyond the five already in detention could spark a new civil war, fueling allegations of political interference in the tribunal’s work.
(Additional reporting by Chhorn Chansy)