The international co-prosecutor at the Khmer Rouge tribunal Thursday asked the court’s co-investigating judges to consider allegations of rape, forced marriage and gender-based violence in their investigation of the government-opposed Case 004.
The case was put forward by prosecutors in September 2009, who allege that mid-level Khmer Rouge officials Ta Tith, Ta An and Im Chaem oversaw or led purges in the regime’s central and northwestern zones, as well as executions of Khmer Krom and Cham Muslims in a total of six provinces.
In his statement, Co-Prosecutor Nicholas Koumjian said he wants the investigation to include “sexual or gender-based violence as well as forced marriage in key districts that are presently under investigation as part of this case.”
“The allegations include forced marriages, including instances where groups of up to 80 couples were married in a single ceremony,” he said.
“The allegations also include rapes and sexual violence outside the context of forced marriages, including instances where women were raped prior to being executed, and instances where women who reported rapes during the Khmer Rouge period were subsequently executed.”
He said the evidence falls within the definition of crimes against humanity, and that a proposal to reduce the number of crime sites, which is being considered, would speed up the investigation in cases 003 and 004.
Both cases have been vociferously opposed by the government and investigations are currently being carried out solely by the international side of the Office of the Investigating Judges.
Long Panhavuth, a program officer at the Cambodia Justice Initiative, commended the prosecutor’s supplementary submission.
“I think it’s a good move, which is also good for the victims of sexual violence,” he said.
Some of those victims have told of their suffering at extrajudicial women’s hearings, which were set up in part as a way to pressure the court into recognizing such crimes.
Duong Savorn, who runs the gender-based violence program at the Cambodian Defenders Project, said he had personally appealed to Mr. Koumjian to address the issue.
“We did not have much hope in the court, that’s why we opened the door for women to talk,” Mr. Savorn said. “It was a kind of advocacy to the court—we were saying, ‘look at these women talking, they need acceptance.’”