After more than two years, the co-investigating judges at the Khmer Rouge tribunal are expected to announce this week, and perhaps as early as today, that they consider their second investigation of Khmer Rouge regime suspects to be complete.
The announcement will open the door for parties to the trial, including defense teams for all five suspects, to file requests for further investigative action before the co-investigating judges can rule on whether to indict the suspects or dismiss their cases.
This process could take quite some time: The investigation in the first case before the tribunal of Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, concluded on May 15, 2008, but the closing order was not issued until Aug 8. Duch’s trial did not begin until February 2009.
The tribunal’s second case is considerably more complicated, with five suspects and dozens of crime scenes ranging from a dam in Banteay Meanchey province to a salt production site in Kampot.
There are also several issues that could cast doubt on the scope?? of the investigation, including ongoing bias accusations against Co-Investigating Judge Marcel Lemonde and the fact that six high-ranking government officials who were called as witnesses by Judge Lemonde have thus far ignored their summonses.
Victor Koppe, a Dutch lawyer for Khmer Rouge ideologue Nuon Chea, wrote in an e-mail yesterday that his team was unhappy with the investigation as it currently stands.
“We have little to no confidence in the scope of the investigation,” he wrote. “It is far from complete. Key defense requests filed at the very early stages of the investigation remain unanswered. Crucial witnesses have not been examined, because they simply refuse to appear. We will be forced to investigate everything again at the trial, possibly, and unnecessarily, prolonging these proceedings by several years.”
Anne Heindel, a legal adviser to the Documentation Center of Cambodia, said yesterday that a number of requests for further action seemed likely, because defense lawyers have been vocally unhappy with the course of the investigation for some time now.
But, she added, it remains difficult for court observers to make clear judgments about the scope of the investigation, which has been conducted out of the public eye.
“We don’t really have very much public information because of the lack of transparency, so it’s hard to assess whether it’s been adequate or not,” she said.
In an e-mail yesterday, newly appointed UN prosecutor Andrew Cayley said that even though the judicial investigation has been narrower in scope than prosecutor’s initial allegations of 2007, they may still represent the breadth of alleged criminality.
At cases before other tribunals, “you will find that the investigations and subsequent prosecutions are a representative sample of all the events that took place over a number of years and in a wide geographical area,” he said. “This is a normal process even in large domestic criminal proceedings.”