PHNOM PENH - The Khmer Rouge tribunal is facing criticism from court monitors who say the UN-backed court has not done enough public outreach to help everyday Cambodians participate in the judicial process.
Public awareness is a key component of the court, which allows civil parties to participate alongside the prosecution and defense, in an attempt to provide some national reconciliation over the trauma caused by the brutal regime, but monitors say not enough information in two contentious cases at the court has been released to the public.
Those cases—003 and 004—are strongly opposed by Prime Minister Hun Sen and other senior government officials, because they would require five more indictments of former Khmer Rouge cadre.
Critics say that Hun Sen’s opposition to the cases mean they are unlikely to go to trial, and they have not received the kind of attention the first two cases did.
Currently, in Case 002, former leaders Nuon Chea, Khieu Samphan and Ieng Sary are on trial for atrocity crimes. In that case, more than 3,800 Khmer Rouge survivors filed as complainants. By comparison, in Case 003, only 321 survivors filed. Only 847 have filed for Case 004.
“The fewer number of people interested is due to a lack of outreach,” said Latt Ky, a court monitor for the rights group Adhoc. “Plus the suspects were not identified for the public.”
According to court regulations, complainants must file the name of the suspects under investigation. But the tribunal has kept the identities of the suspects a secret, even though the names were leaked to the press long ago.
“It could have an impact on the justice for victims,” said Long Panhavuth, a program officer for the Cambodian office of the Open Society Justice Initiative. “When victims don’t receive any information, justice only comes for those among the Khmer Rouge tribunal members.”
Tribunal spokesman Neth Pheaktra said outreach has been done through the public affairs section and the Victims Support Section at the court, especially on how to file a complaint. “We also collaborate closely with mass media,” he said.
Im Sophea, head of the Victims Support Section, encouraged survivors and the families of victims to file complaints for Case 004. Case 003 is closed for filings.
According to court documents, Case 003 would charge two Khmer Rouge military commanders, Meas Muth and Sous Met, with atrocity crimes.
Case 004 accuses three others—Im Chaem; Ta An, also known as Oam An; and Ta Tith, also known as Yim Tith—with atrocity crimes in Khmer Rouge zones where hundreds of thousands of people are thought to have died through overwork, starvation or execution.
Case 004 includes 14 sites, mostly security centers and execution sites, in the provinces of Battambang, Kampong Cham, Kampong Thom, Pursat and Takeo.