The U.N. plans to “review” a slew of newly declassified documents that show that judicial police ignored an arrest warrant for Khmer Rouge navy commander and accused war criminal Meas Muth, according to the U.N.’s special expert on the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC).
In March, Meas Muth was charged in absentia with war crimes and crimes against humanity. He denies the charges, which include allegations that he oversaw purges of cadre in the Southwest Zone and the deaths of foreigners captured at sea.
Documents declassified last week showed that International Co-Investigating Judge Mark Harmon had issued the charges in absentia because judicial police had ignored an arrest warrant first issued on December 17.
One of the declassified documents also appears to indicate that an arrest warrant for an unnamed suspect—likely Im Chaem, the former district commander accused of coordinating purges and executions in the Northwest Zone—was not carried out. She was charged in absentia on the same day as Meas Muth and similarly remains defiant in the face of the allegations against her.
Any failure by the Cambodian government to execute arrest warrants issued by the ECCC amounts to a breach of the court’s rules.
Asked whether the U.N. would take any action as a result of the revelations, the U.N.’s special expert on the Khmer Rouge tribunal, David Scheffer, said the now-public documents would be reviewed.
“Prior to the declassification of documents, the details of the ECCC’s process preceding the issuance of arrest warrants in respect of individuals in cases 003 and 004 have been the subject of broad judicial confidentiality,” he said in an email on Friday.
“The United Nations will review the extensive documentation that the ECCC has recently declassified in this regard, as well as such other relevant material as may be brought to our attention by the ECCC.”
Mr. Scheffer added that the U.N. expected the government to “comply with all obligations under the ECCC Agreement between the United Nations and the Royal Government of Cambodia,” although he did not address what consequences, if any, the government would face for failing to comply.
Billy Tai, a lawyer and an independent human rights consultant, said a lack of enforcement measures in ECCC legislation and internal rules had been an “ongoing issue,” having previously surfaced when high-ranking government officials refused to appear as witnesses at the tribunal, leading to accusations that the U.N. was “toothless.”
“My understanding of the U.N. rules and processes is that there is not anything they can do about the unwillingness of the government to enforce these warrants,” Mr. Tai said.
And if the U.N. is unable to take any action, he added, “What is the point of the hybrid institution? That is the question I have.”