Drawing on victim complaints, Khmer Rouge tribunal prosecutors have asked co-investigating judges to broaden their investigation of the five suspects awaiting trial at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia.
Co-prosecutors Wednesday asked the judges to investigate allegations of unlawful detention, forced labor, torture and execution at an unnamed Khmer Rouge security center not previously under scrutiny, according to a statement from the court released Friday evening.
“These factual allegations, if founded, could constitute crimes against humanity and violations of the 1956 Penal Code punishable under ECCC law, and we have so alleged in our Supplementary Submission,” Co-Prosecutor Robert Petit said in the statement.
Prosecutors did not name any additional suspects, asking only that existing defendants Nuon Chea, Ieng Sary, Khieu Samphan, Ieng Thirith and Kaing Guek Eav be investigated for their roles in the alleged crimes.
“Significantly, this request was filed as a direct result of victims providing their information to the court through the assistance of Adhoc, a Cambodian human rights organization,” Co-Prosecutor Chea Leang said in the statement.
“As a result of the detailed nature and concise form in which the information was provided, we were able to assess and act on this information quickly,” she added.
Chea Leang urged more victims and witnesses to come forward. Given the limited scope of the court, not all victim complaints will result in additional prosecutions, but all will be “reviewed and assessed,” she said.
Hisham Mousar, who monitors the Khmer Rouge tribunal for Adhoc, said Adhoc presented the court last November with civil party complaints from seven victims who testified about their experiences at the provincial security center.
Adhoc has been gathering civil party complaints since December 2006, Mousar said, adding that the 400 people they have dedicated to the search for potential civil parties have collected over 50 complaints so far.
Even 30 years of scholarly research does not eliminate the need for direct victim testimony, which can reveal details of crimes not yet on the court’s radar, Mousar said.
“This complaint is a good signal for the ECCC, especially regarding civil parties. It shows that civil parties can accelerate the investigations of the ECCC,” Mousar said.
Peter Foster, the court’s UN Public Affairs Officer, said by e-mail Sunday that the court was grateful for help from civil society groups like Adhoc, who are “able to cover almost all of the country in a way that the ECCC, with its limited resources and staff, would never be able to achieve.”
“As a direct result of input from victims, the Co-Prosecutors were able to make the recommendation to expand the investigations. I hope other victims who have been concerned that their information won’t matter, will be inspired by this news to come forward,” Foster added.
This latest submission builds on the prosecutors’ initial submission, made July 18, 2007, which implicated the five suspects now behind bars in 25 distinct criminal situations, involving murder, torture, religious persecution, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and genocide.
The tribunal yet to charge anyone with genocide, Co-Investigating Judge Marcel Lemonde said Sunday. Such a charge can be added at any point during the investigation.
Prosecutors said they submitted more than 30 supporting documents to buttress their new submission, totaling 1,500 pages of reports, witness statements, and historical documents, much of which was gathered with the help of the Documentation Center of Cambodia.