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Monitors Worry Over Tribunal Gag Order

A group of seven Khmer Rouge tribunal monitors expressed concern Friday over court gag order for a Web site managed by one of the defense teams earlier this week.

In a joint statement Friday, the monitoring groups said an order by investigating judges that Ieng Sary’s defense remove documents from its Web site, on the basis of confidentiality, applied “a harsh rule that unnecessarily limits public information.”

“Transparency is an essential condition of all public institutions, including courts, as a foundation for public confidence and a bulwark against corruption and improper political influence,” the groups said.

Investigating judges ordered the defense team to take three documents off its Web site Tuesday, including the refusal of the tribunal to grant a psychiatrist to Ieng Sary, who is 84 and in the poorest health of five jailed leaders of the regime.

The defense team, which took down the documents, has said the pages were not confidential and that the legal reasoning of the judges was flawed. The team has appealed the order.

Meanwhile, the seven non-governmental organizations said the order and its justification of confidentiality were a reflection of a failure by tribunal judges to meet the demands of the public.

“The Office of Co-Investigating Judges has failed to meet public demands and expectations for a reasonable level of disclosure of information regarding the pre-trial phase, and to fulfill their promises to make more information public,” the groups said.

The monitoring groups are the Cambodian Defenders Project, Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association, Center for Social Development, Khmer Institute of Democracy, International Center for Transitional Justice, Asian International Justice Initiative and Cambodia Justice Initiative.

Sok Samoeun, executive director of the Cambodian Defenders Project and chairman of the Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee, told VOA Khmer Friday the order from the investigating judges came abruptly and without warning.

The monitors “did not see the impact on the confidentiality of the case of the accused,” he said. “We wish that in the future co-investigating judges be patient and find clear measures to avoid controversy.”

Marcel Lemonde, one of two investigating judges who issued the gag order, told VOA Khmer the question of confidentiality was “complicated” and needed much explanation. The decision was made on judicial principals, he said.

“I believe that there are necessities for further explanation from the tribunal side in general and from the co-investigating judges in particular,” he said. “And then we have a wish to organize the discussion with the media and with NGOs on that question of transparency.”