KR Tribunal to Reduce Scope of Investigations

The Khmer Rouge tribunal on Friday adopted controversial new provisions that will likely reduce the scope of investigations into crimes committed during the Pol Pot era, by allowing both co-investigating judges and the Trial Chamber to drop accusations against suspects.

At a plenary session of the Ex­traordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) on Friday, the judges adopted new rules allowing co-investigating judges to exclude facts from a submission and the Trial Chamber to omit parts of an indictment, after prosecutors proposed the change in March. 

According to a statement released by the ECCC on Friday, the move is aimed at expediting proceedings against former Khmer Rouge leaders Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea in Case 002, which contains such a vast number of accusations that many are likely to never be heard in the courtroom.

It will also allow the accusations against the four suspects in the government-opposed cases 003 and 004, which have yet to come before the tribunal, to be pared down.

Hong Kimsuon, national co-lawyer for the civil parties, said that any reduction in the scope of investigations could silence the voices of victims of the Pol Pot regime.

“We understand that the accused are getting old and could die soon and will then not have been found guilty,” he said.

“However, if certain facts of the civil parties are not heard, it will mean that not all civil parties reveal all of their suffering and facts from that time will be overlooked,” he added.

Mr. Kimsuon said he believed any omissions from the second phase of Case 002—which is due to restart on Wednesday after Khieu Samphan was rushed to the hospital during the first day of evidentiary hearings on January 8—could have ramifications for investigations in later cases.

“We are so sorry that the ECCC has decided to reduce the scope of investigations…it will have knock-on effects because some facts in Case 002/02 are also key facts in cases 003 and 004,” he said.

In March, the defense teams of Khieu Samphan and former navy chief Meas Muth strongly objected to the proposed rule change in separate internal memorandums, arguing that it could lead to political interference. The government has opposed investigations seen as too close to ex-Khmer Rouge members who currently hold office.

Despite opposition from some quarters, Panhavuth Long, a program officer for the Cambodian Justice Initiative, said he welcomed any move that would hasten the tribunal’s proceedings, which have been slow and costly since its inception.

“I welcome these decisions and I think this is the only way where you can move the investigations faster, and you also can hasten the proceedings when the case is at the hearing,” he said.

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