The UN-backed Khmer Rouge tribunal has moved to single out a former regime commander for prosecution, in a case that has lingered a long time and many fear may never be tried.
The court has decided to separate the charges against Im Chaem, who is one of three suspects in Case 004, into its own case.
Tribunal spokesman Neth Pheaktra said the creation of Case 004/001 means a more expedited process, as investigations continue for suspects Ao An and Yim Tith. “We cannot wait until the investigation ends for the other two suspects,” he said.
Im Chaem was allegedly the secretary of Preah Net Preah district, in the Northwest Zone. She is charged with homicide and crimes against humanity, for deaths that took place at two detention centers and a work site. She has in the past denied the charges against her and refused to cooperate with the court.
The announcement comes as the tribunal continues the trial of two senior leaders, Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan, who are charged with atrocity crimes, including genocide.
Latt Ky, a tribunal monitor for the rights group Adhoc, called the separation of the case “positive headway.”
The court appears “rather in a hurry to show the public face of the suspects who have the status of defendants in the case,” he said. The decision still requires a green light from the Supreme Court Chamber, and divisions between international and Cambodian judges could create a split decision, further eroding confidence in the court, he said.
Reached at his home in Battambang province, suspect Ao An, also known as Ta An, said he did not fear the court. “I’m not afraid of hell either,” he said. “I do good deeds. I follow the teachings of Buddha. In the past, I did not kill anyone. Why should I be afraid of hell?”