Open Society Justice Initiative Welcomes Decision to Reopen Khmer Rouge Investigation

The Open Society Justice Initiative welcomes the decision by a judge at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia to reopen an investigation into two alleged former Khmer Rouge officials, known as Case 003.

In a decision released to the public on Thursday, but issued in December, 2011, Judge Laurent Kasper-Ansermet, the international co-investigating judge at the tribunal, said that the investigation so far had been “defective and prejudicial to all the parties.”

The Justice Initiative believes the decision to reopen the case is an important development in recognizing the inherent unfairness in the premature decision to terminate investigations, which sidelined the interests of the victims.

In addition to Case 003, the co-investigating judges are still examining Case 004, involving a further three Khmer Rouge officials. The two co-investigating judges must recommend whether there is sufficient evidence to bring the two outstanding cases to trial.

James A Goldston, executive director of the Open Society Justice Initiative said:

“The proper handling of these two cases still under investigation will be a litmus test of the court's ability to meet the basic standards of international law, in order to bring justice for victims of the Khmer Rouge, and to promote future adherence to the rule of law in Cambodia.”

The Cambodian government has repeatedly indicated that it wishes the tribunal to end its work after the conclusion of the current trial of the three alleged most senior surviving Khmer Rouge leaders, known as Case 002.

In his decision reopening Case 003, Judge Kasper-Ansermet overturned the findings of his predecessor Judge Siegfried Blunk and his Cambodian colleague, You Bunleng, who had rejected requests for further investigative action from the International Co-Prosecutor, Andrew Cayley.

Judge Kasper Ansermet's ruling stressed the need to recognize the rights of victims to justice, to the truth and to reparations, as well as the interest of suspects in being able to answer accusations made against them.

He also highlighted what he said were other flaws in decisions by Judges Blunk and Bunleng. Accordingly, he ruled that the Case 003 investigation must be “resumed.”

Several decisions of the tribunal’s Pre-Trial Chamber's international judges have previously outlined serious flaws in the Case 003 investigation, as well as violations of the fundamental rights of victims seeking access to the investigations.

Cambodia has refused to acknowledge the authority of Judge Kasper-Ansermet since he took over from Judge Blunk late last year, despite his endorsement by the United Nations.