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Ban Ki-Moon hits back at tribunal criticism

June 16, 2011 Leave a comment
The office of United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon has defended
the embattled investigating judges at the Khmer Rouge tribunal in a
statement that drew criticism from local observers and lawyers at the
court.

The judges have come under fire in recent weeks from
victims, civil society groups and even their own staff for their
apparent failure to investigate the tribunal’s third case properly. The
likely dismissal of the case reflects the viewpoint of the Cambodian
government, which opposes prosecutions beyond the upcoming Case 002,
leading many to charge that Case 003 has been sabotaged for political
expediency.

In a statement released in New York on Tuesday, Ban’s
office rejected “media speculation” that the UN had directed the judges
to shutter Case 003 and denied that any political interference had
occurred in the case. A “closing order” – indictments or dismissals in
the case – will be available to public scrutiny at a later date, the
statement added.

“The judges and prosecutors at the Extraordinary
Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) must be allowed to function
free from external interference by the Royal Government of Cambodia, the
United Nations, donor States and civil society,” the statement read,
adding: “Speculating on the content of the Closing Order at this stage
does not assist the independent judicial process.”

However, local
observers said the statement was in fact cause for greater concern
about the tribunal, as the UN refused to acknowledge the abundance of
evidence that the Case 003 investigation has been mismanaged.

Co-investigating
judges Siegfried Blunk of Germany and You Bunleng of Cambodia announced
the conclusion of their Case 003 investigation in April, though without
taking a number of seemingly basic steps including the questioning of
the suspects involved and the examination of a number of alleged crime
sites.

Staff from the judges’ office have since begun resigning
in protest; in a resignation letter to Blunk last month, noted Khmer
Rouge-era historian Stephen Heder, formerly a consultant to the
investigating judges, spoke of the “toxic atmosphere” within their
office, saying it had become “professionally dysfunctional”. He added
that the judges had closed Case 003 “effectively without investigating
it”.

The judges last week rejected a series of requests from
international co-prosecutor Andrew Cayley calling for them to
investigate the case further, a decision Cayley has appealed.

In
the statement Tuesday, Ban’s office cited the confidentiality of the
investigation and said the investigating judges “are not under an
obligation to provide reasons for their actions at this stage of the
investigation in Case 003”.

But Anne Heindel, a legal adviser at
the Documentation Centre of Cambodia, called this an erroneous reading
of court rules and said the UN was “hiding behind a cloak of
confidentiality”.

“As an institution, the UN is trying to protect
the integrity of the court by denying that there are any problems, and
it’s too late for that,” she said. “They need to acknowledge that action
needs to be taken to save this investigation or it could undermine the
entire work of the court.”

Clair Duffy, a trial monitor with the
Open Society Justice Initiative, said UN officials were “ignoring all of
the evidence they now have before them, including from people inside
the court with knowledge of what’s going on”.

“To pretend that
this is a matter of speculation at this point ignores the wealth of
available evidence that no serious investigative action was ever
undertaken in relation to the 003 suspects,” she said.

The
suspects in Case 003 remain officially confidential, though court
documents reveal them as former KR navy commander Meas Mut and air force
commander Sou Met.

Lawyers for former Khmer Rouge Brother No 2
Nuon Chea, set to stand trial later this month in the court’s second
case, also took issue with the UN statement, which referred to their
client as one of “the four remaining leaders of the Khmer Rouge”.

This
statement, the defence team said, presupposes both Nuon Chea’s guilt
and the fact that he and the other Case 002 suspects “are the only
‘leaders’ of the Khmer Rouge still alive”.

Whether the Case 003
suspects also fall into this category “is a matter which is currently
the subject of litigation before the ECCC”, the defence team said.

Categories: Khmer Rouge, Local News

Outgoing consultant blasts tribunal judges

June 14, 2011 Leave a comment
A consultant to the investigating judges at the Khmer Rouge tribunal
spoke of the “toxic atmosphere” within the “professionally
dysfunctional” office in resigning in protest last month over the
handling of the court’s controversial third case.

The news
follows a public statement issued by the investigating judges on Sunday
acknowledging that multiple staffers from their office had left amid
disagreements over the Case 003 investigation, which was closed in April
and appears to have been scuttled amid opposition from the Cambodian
government. In a resignation letter dated May 5 and addressed to German
co-investigating judge Siegfried Blunk, Stephen Heder, a noted historian
of the Khmer Rouge period, said he and others in the office had become
increasingly disillusioned with the judges’ action in the case.

“In
view of the judges’ decision to close the investigation into Case File
003 effectively without investigating it, which I, like others, believe
was unreasonable; in view of the UN staff’s evidently growing lack of
confidence in your leadership, which I share; and in view of the toxic
atmosphere of mutual mistrust generated by your management of what is
now a professionally dysfunctional office, I have concluded that no good
use can or will be made of my consultancy services,” Heder wrote. He
declined to comment yesterday beyond the resignation letter.

In
response to the resignations of Heder and at least three foreign staff
members from the office, Blunk and his Cambodian counterpart, You
Bunleng, said on Sunday that they “welcome the departure of all staff
members who ignore the sole responsibility of the [co-investigating
judges]” over Case 003.

The suspects in this case remain
officially confidential, though court documents reveal them as former KR
navy commander Meas Mut and air force commander Sou Met, men thought to
be responsible for thousands of deaths.

Blunk and You Bunleng
have evinced a siege mentality in their public statements in recent
weeks, lashing out at those who have questioned their professional
behaviour.

Last month, the judges ordered international
co-prosecutor Andrew Cayley to retract a statement he had made outlining
further investigative steps he planned to request in Case 003, as he is
permitted to do under court rules.

The judges accused Cayley of
breaching the court’s confidentiality rules in an order that Cayley has
appealed. They have since rejected his investigative requests.

Yesterday,
the tribunal’s Pre-Trial Chamber ruled in a unanimous decision that
this retraction order, which Blunk and You Bunleng had stipulated be
carried out within three days, be suspended pending a final decision on
Cayley’s appeal.

In their decision, the Pre-Trial Chamber judges
noted that “the information the Co-Investigating Judges ask the
International Co-Prosecutor to retract is quoted in the Order issued by
the Co-Investigating Judges”.

“As such, the information will
remain in the public domain even if it is ‘retracted’ by the
Co-Prosecutors,” the Pre-Trial Chamber said.

The Pre-Trial
Chamber judges have historically split in ruling on matters related to
cases 003 and 004, with the Cambodian judges opposing the cases and the
international judges in favour. Clair Duffy, a trial monitor with the
Open Society Justice Initiative, said “reason has prevailed” with
yesterday’s decision, though she cautioned that it was still too early
to say whether the chamber will reverse Blunk and You Bunleng’s
rejection of the requests for additional investigation in Case 003. 

Categories: Khmer Rouge, Local News

Survey Finds Increased Confidence in Tribunal

June 9, 2011 Leave a comment
An increasing number of Cambodians in an ongoing survey say they have
more faith in the UN-backed Khmer Rouge tribunal, according to new data
released Thursday.
According to the authors of a survey by the Human Rights Center of
the University of California Berkeley, respondents showed a “positive
trend” in their belief in the tribunal.
The UN-backed tribunal, which is heading toward its second trial, of
four Khmer Rouge leaders, was designed in part to bring national healing
to the trauma of the regime.
But the court has come under increased criticism of political interference and a lack of funding.
However, the Human Rights Center survey, conducted in December 2010
across 125 communes nationwide, found that an increasing number of
Cambodians have confidence in the court.
The authors noted that in 2008, in its first survey, only about 2
percent of respondents said they believed the court would provide any
justice to Khmer Rouge leaders. After the court’s first successful
trial, of torture chief Duch, that number rose to 37 percent.
About 25 percent said the process will help relieve the pain and suffering of victims, compared to 9 percent who disagreed.
“Trust seems to be increasing,” although with some caveats, said
Patrick Vinck, a researcher for the Human Rights Center, said Wednesday.
“It’s still, kind of, ‘Well, I trust them, but I do think they take
bribes,’” he added, summarizing the findings of the survey. “But the
trend is a positive trend.”
Categories: Khmer Rouge, Local News

Judges dismiss call to probe new KRouge case

June 8, 2011 Leave a comment
PHNOM PENH (AFP) – Cambodia’s UN-backed war crimes
tribunal on Tuesday rejected demands to pursue a politically-sensitive
new Khmer Rouge case that has divided the court.
The investigating judges said the prosecution failed to follow procedure
when filing a request for unnamed suspects to be interviewed for their
alleged crimes as members of the brutal 1975-79 regime to be prosecuted.
In a written statement, the judges said international co-prosecutor
Andrew Cayley’s request was invalid because he hadn’t done the necessary
paperwork to file the requests without the backing of his national
counterpart.
Cayley and his Cambodian colleague Chea Leang are openly at odds over
how to proceed with the case, with Leang saying the suspects, thought to
be two ex-Khmer Rouge commanders, are outside the court’s jurisdiction.
Cayley can appeal the judges’ decision not to pursue an investigation
but the announcement appears to signal their willingness to close the
tribunal’s controversial third case, prompting fears the court is caving
to government pressure.
“The judges are using questionable legal technicalities to try to avoid
the very important substantive issues raised by Cayley,” said Anne
Heindel, a legal adviser at the Documentation Centre of Cambodia, which
researches Khmer Rouge atrocities.
“It’s the continuation of their attempts to kill case three.”
In its landmark first trial, the tribunal sentenced former prison chief
Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Duch, to 30 years in jail in July for
overseeing the deaths of 15,000 people.
That case is now under appeal, while a second trial involving four of
the regime’s most senior surviving leaders is due to start later this
month.
A survivor of the Khmer Rouge regime Hem
Sakou, 79, stands in front of portraits of victims at the Tuol Sleng
(S-21) genocide museum in Phnom Penh May

31, 2011. She was part of the more than 300 villagers brought to the
Khmer Rouge notorious security prison S-21, now museum, by the court on a
regular tour basis. Sakou said that she found the photos of her son who
was killed at S-21, appealing to the U.N. backed tribunal to sentence
the former regime leaders in detention to life in prison for crimes they
committed.
The court is still investigating a fourth case against three more
suspects, believed to be mid-level cadres. But it too is shrouded in
secrecy and faces stiff government opposition.
Prime Minister Hun Sen has repeatedly voiced his objection to further
trials, saying they could plunge the country into civil war, and
observers widely expect the third and fourth cases to be dropped.
Led by “Brother Number One” Pol Pot, who died in 1998, the Marxist Khmer
Rouge regime emptied cities in the late 1970s in a bid to create an
agrarian utopia, executing and killing through starvation and overwork
up to two million.
Categories: Khmer Rouge, Local News

UN denies interfering in Cambodian war crimes tribunal cases

May 27, 2011 Leave a comment

Phnom Penh – The United Nations Friday rejected allegations it had
interfered with investigations at the UN-backed war crimes tribunal in
Cambodia or put any pressure on the investigating judges.

The
allegations come amid fears the tribunal is looking to shut down two
cases – known as Case Three and Case Four – in the face of government
opposition. Prime Minister Hun Sen has long said he would not permit
either case to go to trial, citing a risk of civil war.

Late
last month the investigating judges closed Case Three, but within days
international prosecutor Andrew Cayley criticized the investigation as
deficient.

Cayley said the judges had failed even to question
the suspects in Case Three, did not investigate numerous crime sites
and did not interview a number of witnesses.

On Wednesday the
president of the Cambodian Center of Human Rights, Ou Virak,
questioned the work of the investigating judges, claiming the actions
of the UN’s judge, Siegfried Blunk, ‘raise the question of whether the
United Nations has conceded to the demands of the (Cambodian
government) and is now acting to prevent any further cases from going
to trial.’

In emailed comments Friday, UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said that was not the case.

‘Neither the secretary-general nor the United Nations Secretariat
plays any role in the independent judicial process before the ECCC
[Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, the tribunal’s
official name],’ Nesirky said.

‘And I can confirm, in response
to your question, that no instructions have been issued by any United
Nations officials to any judge or other official at the (tribunal) to
prevent Cases 003 and 004 moving forward as part of this independent
judicial process,’ he said.

Cases Three and Four involve five
former Khmer Rouge who are thought responsible for tens of thousands
of deaths during the movement’s rule of Cambodia between 1975 and 1979.

The court’s second case, against four senior surviving leaders of the movement, is scheduled to begin June 27.

In its first case, the tribunal last year convicted the Khmer Rouge’s
head of security, Comrade Duch, of war crimes and crimes against
humanity.

Case Four is still with the investigating judges’ office, which is led jointly by Blunk and Cambodian judge You Bunleng.

More than 2 million people are thought to have died during the Khmer Rouge’s rule.

Monsters and Critics

Categories: Khmer Rouge, Local News

Cambodians mark ‘Day of Anger’ for KRouge victims

May 21, 2011 Leave a comment
Students re-enact the crimes of the Khmer Rouge regime to mark the
annual ‘Day of Anger’ at the Choeung Ek killing fields memorial in Phnom
Penh, Cambodia on May 20. Tang Chhin Sothy / AFP – Getty Images
A woman wipes her eyes during the annual ‘Day of Anger’ at the Choeung Ek killing fields memorial in Phnom Penh. Tang Chhin Sothy / AFP – Getty Images
Students from a fine arts school take part in a performance to mark the
annual ‘Day of Anger’ at the Choeung Ek killing fields memorial. Tang Chhin Sothy / AFP – Getty Images

CHOEUNG EK, Cambodia – Tearful
Cambodians attended a re-enactment of a massacre by the Khmer Rouge at a
“Day of Anger” ceremony Friday and demanded long jail terms for
ex-regime leaders facing trial.

Thousands of people, including monks and children,
watched black-clad students mime raping, bludgeoning and shooting
victims near the mass graves of thousands of prisoners at a former
killing field outside Phnom Penh.

“I am speechless about my
suffering under the Khmer Rouge. It was more than 30 years ago now, but I
still remember my pain,” said Tim Pho, 75, who lost 15 family members
during the communist movement’s 1975-79 rule.

The
annual “Day of Anger” ceremony comes just weeks before the start of a
high-profile genocide trial involving the movement’s four most senior
surviving leaders, including “Brother Number Two” Nuon Chea.

“I want the four Khmer Rouge leaders to get very serious sentences so that they will be in jail for life,” Tim Pho told AFP.

Led by “Brother Number One” Pol Pot, who died in 1998, the Marxist regime emptied cities and abolished money and schools in a bid to create an agrarian utopia.

Up to two million people were executed or died from starvation, overwork or torture during the brutal reign.

Former
Khmer Rouge prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Duch, was
sentenced to 30 years in jail last July for war crimes and crimes
against humanity.

He was the first person to face justice at Cambodia’s UN-backed court. The case is now under appeal.

AFP
Categories: Khmer Rouge, Local News

Far From the Killing Fields, a Graduate Looks Back …

May 19, 2011 Leave a comment

Remembering the refugee camp, hunger, and uncertainty

By Judith D. Schwartz 

Thi Mary Le Evans with her husband David and sons Mathias, 3, Michael, 7, and daughter Anneliese,1.

Credit: Nick Romanenko

For Thi Mary Le
Evans, the memories are vague: she remembers the heat, the sounds and feel of
the night jungle, and being told not to talk. She was 2 ½ years old when her
family walked from Phnom Penh in Cambodia to the
Thai border.
“We
were told Thailand
was not taking Cambodian refugees so we were disguised as Vietnamese,” says
Evans. “My parents took only a jug of water and us … their three children.” The
jungle they traversed in the dark of night was full of snakes, cobras and
landmines.
On May 15, Evans, now 27, a married
mother of three, received her master’s from the School of Management and Labor
Relations  (SMLR)—and presented the
convocation speech.
For
Evans, the route to academic achievement has involved not only challenging
courses and hard work, but also refugee camps, hunger, and uncertainty. She was
born after the collapse of the Khmer Rouge, a regime notorious for social
engineering policies that led to the genocide marked by the chilling phrase
“killing fields”. Her parents each spent a decade in labor camps, their own
families having been wiped out. Her father survived only because by chance he
was studying away from home when the soldiers came through.
These
dark facts were a constant background to growing up, says Evans: “The history
was ingrained in us. We talked about how intellectuals, the educated and
literate, were killed. We understood why we had no grandparents, aunts or
uncles. The only way to know where you come from is to talk about it.”
After
their jungle trek, the family spent a few years in a Thai refugee camp. “I
remember dirt everywhere. We had a bamboo hut and banana leaf roof, with walls
of plastic to keep out the rain,” she says. “But not until I was an adult did I
understand the deprivation. I was a child and everything was enchanted for me.
At school, occasionally there would be lunch given and it was a piece of stale
bread. I remember being told by my mom and dad: ‘Bring it home.’ That was food
for the family. That’s what we ate, with rock salt.”
The
family was later moved to a refugee camp in the Philippines,
where they stayed for more than two years, and then followed a sponsorship from
a church in Maryland, which brought them to
the United States.
Upon
arriving in the US, Evans’s
mother learned she had a sister in New York City
and the family moved to the Bronx, where they
remained for 10years. The neighborhood was riddled with drugs and violence, but
Evans found a haven in her grammar school, Immaculate Conception School, and
its associated convent. An all girls’ Catholic high school brought her to Manhattan and provided
job placements, which gave Evans her first glimpse into the work world.
When
her parents expressed reluctance to let her travel even on a full scholarship
for college, Evans took courses at Middlesex
County College—until
the disruption of September 11 meant she needed to focus on earning a living.
Once she could zero in on academics, she enrolled at Rutgers,
where she was originally a pre-med student, but took a variety of subjects that
interested her.
By
happenstance, she took a class on labor relations with Professor Paula Voos and
a class with Professor Jeff Keefe. “[The subjects] clicked with me—they were
multidisciplinary and can be directly applied, taking everything I was
currently seeing and experiencing while providing me with a toolbox of new
ideas and possible solutions,” she says. “It related to how policies and
relationships between people developed in the world and how I was affected by
it.”
What
Evans treasures in Rutgers is that “people are
huge resources, full of ideas, and there are so many associations and
connections constantly around us,” she says. “In SMLR at Rutgers,
students have full access to professors. It’s very student-centered.”
Evans
is interested in pursuing international labor relations, planning, and policy
and expects to go on to get a Ph.D. J.D. For now, she’s taking a break from
school and working to establish a nonprofit to promote access to education and
basic necessities in Cambodia.
In
her career, Evans hopes to use her knowledge of labor relations to find
solutions to international problems. “In Cambodia, there are classrooms
filled with students where professors are not teaching their classes because
they make more money driving tourists then they would if they taught,” she
says.
Evans
recognizes the challenge of convincing poor families whose children work in
factories that education is worth the loss of family income.
“If
you take out the incentive for the need of child labor as a source of contribution
to family income and put the incentive toward education, then it changes
things, ” she says.
Categories: Khmer Rouge, Local News