Information Minister and government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said Sunday that the government could “terminate” the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia if its international judges charge retired King Norodom Sihanouk for any Khmer Rouge era entanglements.
The ECCC operates under Cambodian law, which guarantees Norodom Sihanouk immunity, he said. Any attempt to violate that immunity, he said, would be “illegal” and thus justify disbandment.
“The government is able to terminate the ECCC,” Khieu Kanharith said.
The tribunal has made no public move to investigate Norodom Sihanouk or to call him as a witness.
However Peter Foster, the UN public affairs officer for the ECCC, reiterated Sunday that it is up to the court’s co-prosecutors and co-investigating judges to decide whom to call as a witness and whom to indict.
The UN has yet to respond to the retired King’s invitation, posted at his Web site Thursday, to come to the Royal Palace Sept 8 to talk about his activities during the Khmer Rouge years.
Foster said Sunday the UN was aware of the retired King’s posted invitation, but, Foster added, “He hasn’t approached any official from the UN at all. Nothing has been sent to the court, no letter or memo.”
Norodom Sihanouk wrote in his invitation that the interview would render testimony at the ECCC unnecessary, but UN tribunal staffers say privately that if such an interview were not conducted under oath it would not be legally binding and that broadcasting testimony could compromise the judicial process.
Questions about Norodom Sihanouk’s possible role in the ECCC were brought up Aug 20 by a statement from the little-known NGO Cambodian Action Committee for Justice and Equality, which called for stripping the retired King’s immunity so he could be charged by the ECCC.
The Cambodian government and Prime Minister Hun Sen last week came to Norodom Sihanouk’s defense, citing his constitutional immunity and the fact that he had himself been a victim of the Khmer Rouge.
The retired King released memos to the press Saturday detailing his suffering under the Khmer Rouge, who, he said, killed five of his children and countless members of his extended family.
He closed by saying he would continue his missive on the subject.
(Reporting by Yun Samean, Erika Kinetz and Douglas Gillison)