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Tribunal Complainant Defends Right to File

Seng Theary, left, walk through a gate at the U.N.-backed tribunal court hall.
Seng Theary, left, walk through a gate at the U.N.-backed tribunal court hall.

Seng Theary, a former child prisoner of the Khmer Rouge who lost her parents to the regime, filed a complaint last week against two former leaders not yet detained, or named, by the UN-backed tribunal.

Seng Theary told “Hello VOA” Monday she filed the complaint, which drew sharp criticism from the court, in order to push for the indictments of more Khmer Rouge leaders.

A spokesman for the tribunal called the complaint irresponsible, after she filed with the victim’s unit of the court for cases 003 and 004, which remain confidential.

But Seng Theary said Monday the court has been limited in its prosecutions of leaders, having only successfully brought one case to trial, the relatively simple case against Kaing Kek Iev, the former torture chief better known as Duch.

Seng Theary has also filed as a civil party complainant in upcoming Case 002, against four jailed leaders, Nuon Chea, Khieu Samphan, Ieng Sary and Ieng Thirith.

After millions of dollars spent on the court, she said, “the justice that we have received is not sufficient; it is messy and cheap.”

She said she filed the complaint against former Khmer Rouge commanders Meas Mut and Sous Met because she believed them responsible for the deaths of her parents.

Khmer Rouge scholars have said the two men and others have a good chance of being indicted if the tribunal moves forward in cases 003 and 004. The court has kept the names of suspects confidential.

But the cases have become politically sensitive, with Prime Minister Hun Sen and some Cambodian judges at the court claiming their prosecution could destabilize the country by inflaming former Khmer Rouge cadre.

Seng Theary called such warnings “unacceptable political intervention” in the cases and asked that public officials stay clear of court procedures.

“As a victim, my client has the full right to file her complaint to the court at any time to seek justice,” said Choung Chou-Ngy, Seng Theary’s attorney for the tribunal, who was also a guest on the show.

And while tribunal officials say it is true complainants can file anytime, the court has not released the identities of the suspects.

“Those who can reveal the name of any individual are only the co-investigating judges,” said Reach Sambath, a tribunal spokesman. “I think we should leave them to do their job, as per the law.”

Civil parties must “respect the principle of the presumption of innocence before a trial,” he added. “Therefore, once an individual files a complaint as a civil party, at a time when there is no name in public, and then to announce it publicly, this will affect court procedure.”

Seng Theary said she filed her complaint because the two cases have been with the office of investigating judges for more than a year after being handed up by the prosecution.