Judges Consider Contempt Action Over Case 003

With denunciations mounting against their apparently premature decision to conclude a case last month, investigating judges at the Khmer Rouge tribunal have begun considering proceedings for contempt of court.

It was unclear yesterday how concrete or advanced any such plans could be, but one possible target is international Co-Prosecutor Andrew Cayley, who divulged information this week to the news media about crime scenes under review in the investigation of the Khmer Rouge military, according to people briefed on the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The development raised the out­landish prospect that, just as the tribunal forswears the pursuit of additional Khmer Rouge suspects, its prosecutions could instead turn inward.

The court yesterday declined to comment. Lars Olsen, legal communications officer, said he had no information about the matter. “In general, the court will not confirm or deny what is under consideration by judicial officers in terms of decision making,” he said.

Co-Investigating Judge Sieg­fried Blunk yesterday declined to speak to a reporter. “You can write any story you like,” he said. His counterpart, Judge You Bunleng, was unavailable.

Both judges on April 29 concluded their investigation in Case 003, in which air force commander Sou Met and navy commander Meas Muth are suspected of crimes against humanity. The judges have reportedly undertaken to suppress both Case 003 and Case 004.

The cases are vehemently opposed by Prime Minister Hun Sen and have received little to no public commitment from the court’s financial backers or the UN.

In a statement on Monday, Mr Cayley provided the first public information on the scope of Case 003 by identifying alleged crimes and crime scenes in the investigation. He also called for members of the public who may have suffered as a result to come forward as complainants and civil parties.

The statement revealed that the investigation was of considerable scope, concerning events at sea and in Vietnam, as well as broad-based purges of Khmer Rouge cadre and crimes for which no one has yet been indicted.

By calling for additional investigative acts, it also effectively exposed the inactivity of the co-investigating judges, who had concluded their work in the case without questioning the suspects or substantial numbers of witnesses.

Court procedure explicitly authorizes the co-prosecutors to provide the public with “objective summaries” of information contained in introductory submissions, which are documents outlining the investigations they seek.

In four years of operations, the court has never applied sanctions for contempt of court to any staff member, lawyer or member of the public, though the rules say “any person” may be sanctioned for disobeying an order of confidentiality.

In his first remarks to the news media since taking office six months ago, Judge Blunk on Wednesday told Radio Australia that potential civil parties had had “ample opportunities” to participate in Case 003 through the court’s victims office.

However, in 20 months, no more than four people have come forward, and no outreach campaign for Case 003 or Case 004 was undertaken.

Im Sophea, the office’s head of outreach, said yesterday that he had no access to the case file.

“The victims support section only provides coordination and organization for the relevant parties to discuss and interact,” he said.

     (Additional reporting by Phann Ana)


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