The Khmer Rouge tribunal last week made 27 amendments to its internal procedures but did not consider any proposals from non-governmental organizations, including one that sought to clarify whether the court should publish a forthcoming decision to resolve a disagreement between prosecutors on whether to open new investigations, officials said.
At the request of the tribunal, several NGOs in December submitted detailed proposals seeking changes to the court’s internal rules that they said would allow for greater openness, such as allowing the public to attend the first court appearances of those who are arrested, and publishing decisions on disagreements between prosecutors and judicial investigators.
Several participants at last week’s plenary session of judges said such proposals had not been discussed.
Supreme Court Chamber Judge Motoo Noguchi, a member of the nine-judge rules and procedure committee, which considers the proposals before submitting them to the plenary, said Tuesday that his committee had simply run out of time at a weeklong meeting in January before it could consider the NGO proposals.
Noguchi said he had been unaware that the NGOs had been actively invited to make proposals, and that current court procedures do not explicitly grant people outside the court the right to propose amendments to the rules.
“If the court officially invited suggestions and they were made, then we would have a moral responsibility to consider them,” he said, adding that some of his own proposals had not been considered for lack of time.
In a joint proposal, five NGOs, including the Center for Social Development, Adhoc and the Cambodian Justice Initiative, proposed resolving an apparent conflict between the court’s 2003 UN treaty and the internal rules.
The treaty calls for the court to publish Pre-Trial Chamber decisions resolving disagreements between prosecutors and judicial investigators, but the internal rules now say such decisions will be kept secret. The chamber is expected soon to deliver a decision on whether to open new investigations of Khmer Rouge regime suspects. David Scheffer, former US Ambassador for war crimes issues and a key negotiator in founding the tribunal, said Tuesday that it was unclear whether the framers of the court had considered whether to publicize such decisions.
“It was not necessarily assumed that there would be written views at all on a matter of such sensitivity between the co-prosecutors,” he wrote in an e-mail, adding that he thought that the 2003 treaty, which calls for publication, should nevertheless be “controlling.”
“The judges may be of the view that a minimalist publication of the ruling within the decision…is all that is required,” he said.