The Khmer Rouge tribunal on Monday announced it had split the government-opposed Case 004 into separate files, creating a new case for proceedings against Im Chaem, a former district chief during the Pol Pot regime.
The order to split the case, which was signed on February 5 by both of the court’s co-investigating judges, said it had been done because the investigation into Im Chaem’s alleged crimes was much further along than the investigations into her co-accused, Ao An and Yim Tith.
“Considering that the investigation on the allegations against Im Chaem has been concluded, while the investigation against other charged persons in Case 004 continues, we consider it appropriate and in the interest of all parties to sever Im Chaem from Case 004,” the order said.
Im Chaem was charged in absentia in March with crimes against humanity and homicide after she flouted an order to appear before former Co-Investigating Judge Mark Harmon. The full investigation into the charges against her, which relate to alleged homicide and crimes against humanity, concluded on December 18.
The tribunal’s cases 003 and 004 are opposed by the government, which has long insisted that the court should stop its work after the completion of its second case, which deals with senior regime leaders.
The government’s intransigence on the issue, along with the refusal of Cambodian court staff to participate in work related to the cases, has hampered progress in investigating cases 003 and 004, which were opened in 2008.
The latest completion plan for the tribunal, released on December 31, pushes back the projected timeline on the cases still further, citing the arrival in mid-2015 of another international co-investigating judge, Michael Bohlander, to replace Judge Harmon.
“A status review of remaining investigations in cases 003 and 004 carried out by the newly appointed international Co-Investigating Judge during the fourth quarter concluded that the previously projected timelines were, in the circumstances, unduly optimistic,” the plan says.
“Consequently, the overall projected timelines for cases 003 and 004 have been extended [by] three and six months respectively to reflect the assessment of the new international Co-Investigating Judge.”
The plan also anticipates the possibility that Case 004 would be further cut into separate cases for Ao An and Yim Tith, saying that would be “the preferred avenue of the Co-Investigating Judges, at this time.”
It projects that a closing order in the case against Im Chaem will be submitted by mid-2016, and that closing orders for Ao An and Yim Tith could follow in late 2016 and mid-2017, respectively.
The document also notes that Yim Tith’s defense team only received access to his case file on December 4, meaning that his case was not as far along as the other two.
Panhavuth Long, a court monitor with the Cambodia Justice Initiative, said that further severance of Case 004 was “highly likely” given the need to finish investigating the government-opposed cases.
“The court is under incredible public demand to move forward with the cases,” he said.
Im Chaem’s lawyers could not be reached for comment.