The Khmer Rouge tribunal’s Office of Co-Investigating Judges has rebuked victims of the brutal Trapeang Thma dam worksite for requesting a thorough investigation of the worksite in the court’s contentious Case 004.
More than 500 victims of the dam wrote to the judges on June 30, airing their anxiety over reports that investigators are working in concert to scuttle the government-opposed case. They also asked for an opportunity to be interviewed as witnesses in Case 004 and to join the case as civil parties or complainants.
On July 8, a court clerk in the Office of the Co-Investigating Judges responded to the families through their lawyers, saying that the office “will not answer this kind of letter.”
“It is disconcerting that you forwarded a letter containing obviously false information,” added clerk Ly Chantola. “The allegation in the letter that ‘Case 004 regarding Trapeang Thma dam…has been rejected by the tribunal’ is erroneous, as you well know: Case 004 has not been rejected, but is still under active investigation by the Co-Investigating Judges.”
The clerk’s message appeared to be based on a misreading of the victims’ original letter, which said they had “heard the court was aiming to dismiss Case 004.”
Mr Chantola went on to point out that the dam had already been investigated as part of the court’s case against four senior regime leaders, which went to trial last month.
Prime Minister Hun Sen has for years opposed prosecuting additional suspects at the tribunal and told UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon last year that cases 003 and 004—in which five mid-level Khmer Rouge suspects are accused of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity—would not be “allowed” to happen.
Co-Investigating Judges Siegfried Blunk and You Bunleng conducted only a rudimentary investigation of Case 003 before closing it in April, and have apparently not examined the allegations in Case 004 in depth.
Two of the suspects in Case 004, former Preah Netr Preah district chief Im Chaem and former Northwest Zone deputy secretary Ta Tith, are believed to have had some authority over the Trapeang Thma dam site, where more than 10,000 people were subjected to slave labor.
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