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Experts Urge ‘Joint’ Criminality in Tribunal

The Khmer Rouge tribunal’s case against prison chief Duch could include a legal principal called “joint criminal enterprise,” potentially implicating other leaders of the regime in his crimes, editors of a journal on international crime say.

Duch, whose real name is Kaing Kek Iev, is charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity for his role as the Democratic Kampuchea head of the infamous torture prison Tuol Sleng. Under his watch, at least 12,000 people were tortured at Tuol Sleng, to be later executed and dumped in mass graves between 1976 and 1979.

But in a “friends of the court” brief filed to tribunal prosecutors Monday, the editors of the Journal of International Criminal Justice said the tribunal had a right to employ “joint criminal enterprise,” which would mean other leaders of the regime share responsibility for the acts Duch carried out as prison chief.

“If the co-prosecutors apply this principle, it can mean if they have enough evidence, they can pursue more and more persons,” said Dara Peou Van Than, deputy director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia.

Duch lawyer Kar Savuth declined to comment on the brief Friday.

The brief was signed by the journal’s editor-in-chief, Antonie Cassese, the first president of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.

In it, the editors argue that the principle of “joint criminal enterprise,” which is under consideration for use by the courts, could be applied “to ensure accountability for the full gravity of crimes” committed by leaders of the regime.

The principle would keep the Khmer Rouge tribunal consistent with other historic and modern tribunals, according to the brief.

But civil party lawyer Hong Kim Suon said the principle, though applied to the tribunal of former Yugoslavia, might not be compatible with Cambodian law, under which all tribunal laws must conform.