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Cambodia: Tribunal Charges Former Navy Commander with Genocide

(Dec. 18, 2015) On December 14, 2015, Meas Muth, a former navy commander in a position of authority during the rule of the Khmer Rouge, was charged with genocide, crimes against humanity, and other crimes by the International Co-Investigating Judge of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC). In the past, Muth had been charged with similar offenses and arrest warrants were issued for him, but because this time he appeared voluntarily and heard the charges that he now faces, previous charges and warrants are moot. (Press Release, ECCC, Mr Meas Muth Charged in Case 003 (Dec. 14, 2015); Jaqueline Jones, Cambodia Tribunal Charges Ex-Navy Commander with Genocide, PAPER CHASE (Dec. 14, 2015).)

The charge of crimes against humanity includes “murder; extermination; enslavement; imprisonment; torture; persecution; other inhumane acts (inhumane treatment, enforced disappearances, forced labour, forced marriage, rape and attacks on human dignity due to conditions of detention).” (Mr Meas Muth Charged in Case 003, supra.) The additional charges are grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and violations of the homicide provision of the Penal Code of Cambodia of 1956. (Id.; THE GENEVA CONVENTIONS OF 12 AUGUST 1949, International Committee of the Red Cross website; CODE PÉNAL ET LOIS PÉNALES, art. 501, at 379 (Phnom Penh, 1956).)

Background

The Khmer Rouge ruled Cambodia, which it renamed Kampuchea, from April 17, 1975, until January 6, 1979. During that time, under the leadership of Pol Pot, it is alleged that 1.7 million people were killed. (Jones, supra.) On August 10, 2001, Cambodia adopted the Law on the Establishment of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia for the Prosecution of Crimes Committed during the Period of Democratic Kampuchea (ECCC Law), but no agreement on prosecution of alleged crimes of the Khmer Rouget was reached with the United Nations at that time. Such an agreement was reached in 2003, and in 2004 the ECCC Law, in an amended form, became the basis for the special court. (ECCC at a Glance: Timeline (Apr. 2014), ECCC website.)

While it is a domestic, Cambodian institution, the ECCC does receive international assistance and has some foreign staff members. Its mission is to try individuals for crimes committed during the Khmer Rouge regime, and its jurisdiction is limited to prosecuting senior leaders of that regime and individuals believed to bear responsibility for grave violations of domestic and international legal norms. (Introduction to the ECCC, ECCC website (last visited Dec. 16, 2015); ECCC Law (Oct. 27, 2004), ECCC website.)

Muth is not the first person to be charged by the ECCC with committing atrocities. In March of this year, Cadre Ao An, a member of the Khmer Rouge who is accused of maintaining an execution site during that regime, was charged with crimes against humanity, and Im Chaem, a former district commander, was charged with homicide and crimes against humanity. (Jones, supra.)