23 September 2014

BANGKOK, Thailand -- A top American United Nations official said attempts to indict five additional former Khmer Rouge for alleged war crimes may be boosted when a new American investigating judge is added to a U.N.-backed court in Cambodia in September.



The Nuremberg-style trial is currently prosecuting only the senior five of the late Pol Pot's leaders.



Five additional suspects who could be brought before the court are "former military commanders and former provincial chiefs, or leaders," who were among Pol Pot's 1975-79 Khmer Rouge regime, said Ambassador David Scheffer, the United Nations Secretary-General's Special Expert on the U.N. Assistance to the Khmer Rouge Trials.



"They are all retired," and currently being investigated for "war crimes and crimes against humanity," Mr. Scheffer said in a brief interview on August 15 during a stopover in Bangkok.



Mr. Scheffer, who is also a law professor and director of the Center for International Human Rights at Northwestern University, declined to name them "because they are not officially designated."



Bringing them to trial at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia will be a challenge.



The U.N.-backed court faced problems trying to determine the guilt of four other elderly men and one woman for the deaths of 1.7 million Cambodians during Pol Pot's back-to-the-jungle "killing fields" regime.



"The personal jurisdiction of this court was not intended to be relegated to only [those] five individuals," Mr. Scheffer said during a news conference in Bangkok earlier on Wednesday (August 15).



"Cases One and Two" include Kaing Guek Eav -- known as Duch -- plus Nuon Chea, Khieu Samphan, Ieng Sary and his wife, Ieng Thirith.



Those five senior Khmer Rouge are the only Cambodians who have been taken to the court.



"The figure that was finally understood in terms of the [tribunals'] negotiators that I knew of -- namely the United States and the United Nations negotiators -- was a figure of between 10 to 15 [suspects], that would be sort of max for this court," Mr. Scheffer said.



The five additional former military commanders and former provincial chiefs, in Cases Three and Four, "are not yet indicted, so they are not defendants yet, they are just suspects, but they are under investigation," he said.



"This led to much controversy. It led to turmoil with the international investigating judges [Siegfried] Blunk and then [Laurent] Kasper-Ansermet [resigning] within the last year," Mr. Scheffer said at the news conference.



"With the resignation of Laurent Kasper-Ansermet from Switzerland in March, effective early May, our choice was two-fold.



"One, we could walk away from Cases Three and Four, which some members of the Cambodian government were voicing their desire we do, or we could appoint a new international co-investigating judge and keep at it. And it is the latter that the U.N. decided we would do.



"So we put forward Mark Harmon, of the United States, to the Cambodian government for official appointment by the Supreme Council of the Magistracy to sit as a judge on this court," Mr. Scheffer said at the news conference.



Mr. Harmon is an American who had "an 18-year career as a top prosecutor of the Yugoslav tribunal," Mr. Scheffer said.



"Prior to that that, he was a prosecutor in the United States," and is scheduled to arrive in Cambodia in September "as the new international co-investigating judge."



Mr. Harmon and the other judges will determine how to proceed against the additional suspects in Cases Three and Four.



Mr. Scheffer said, "If there are disputes, it will be in the hands of the pre-trial chamber. And we'll let the court work it's will."



Duch confessed during Case Number One, and was sentenced to life imprisonment in February for commanding the S-21 Tuol Sleng torture chamber in Phnom Penh, which sent 12,000 to 16,000 people to their death.



A ongoing Case Number Two includes Pol Pot's dreaded ideologue Nuon Chea, alongside Khieu Samphan who became the regime's head of state in 1976, plus former Khmer Rouge Foreign Minister Ieng Sary.



Ieng Sary's wife, Ieng Thirith, was social affairs minister during Pol Pot's reign, but she is currently being assessed for alleged dementia to determine if she can stand trial.



Case Number Two is complex because it has three phases.



"We have the evacuation of people from the cities in 1975...and all the crimes against humanity that are related to that," Mr. Scheffer said.



"We have phase two, which is basically the detention camps and everything that happened in those camps.



"We have phase three, which is the genocide [committed] against the Cham, the Muslim population of Cambodia," Mr. Scheffer said.



"How many years does it take to prosecute all three phases, of Case Two, against these three men?"



To fund the court, Washington paid $11.2 million from 2009 to June 2012, and has "already committed $5 million for the 2013 cycle," totaling more than $16 million, Mr. Scheffer said.



Up until 2012, Japan had been the biggest donor.



After suffering an earthquake, tsunami and nuclear contamination in 2011, however, Tokyo did not match its previous contributions and dropped to second place behind Washington in funding the court this year, he said.



No one knows when the trials will end.



"It's very risky for me to sit here and say, 'Oh you know, maybe there will be six more years of operation, maybe seven, maybe eight. I don't know."



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Richard S. Ehrlich is a Bangkok-based journalist from San Francisco, California, reporting news from Asia since 1978, and recipient of Columbia University's Foreign Correspondent's Award. He is a co-author of three non-fiction books about Thailand, including "Hello My Big Big Honey!" Love Letters to Bangkok Bar Girls and Their Revealing Interviews; 60 Stories of Royal Lineage; and Chronicle of Thailand: Headline News Since 1946. Mr. Ehrlich also contributed to the final chapter, Ceremonies and Regalia, in a new book titled King Bhumibol Adulyadej, A Life's Work: Thailand's Monarchy in Perspective.



His websites are



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(Copyright 2012 Richard S Ehrlich)