Judge asks Vietnam, Thailand for Khmer Rouge documents

War crimes tribunal judge criticises Thailand, Vietnam for refusing to provide evidence in Khmer Rouge trial

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Updated Jul 28, 2015

The Khmer Rouge tribunal’s international co-investigating judge has called out the Vietnamese and Thai governments for failing to provide judicial assistance in investigating serious crimes committed during the ultra-Maoist regime.

Judge Mark Harmon, whose resignation from the court for personal reasons was announced earlier this month, has been independently investigating cases known as 003 and 004 because his national counterpart, Judge You Bunleng, considers them closed.

Three of the four suspects in these two cases have been charged by Harmon -- who is due to step down once a replacement is sworn in -- with a range of crimes, from homicide to crimes against humanity. None has been arrested.

In his statement Monday, Harmon announced that he has the right to ask countries not involved with the court to provide assistance. He said that he has, however, been experiencing difficulty in obtaining documents that appear to be significant to further investigations across the cases from Vietnam and Thailand.

Harmon wrote that the “International Co-Investigating Judge issued three International Rogatory Letters to the Socialist Republic of Vietnam on 11 November 2013 requesting their assistance by providing relevant documents relating to the investigations and by providing access to archives that may contain these documents.”

Four days later, he sent two similar letters to Thailand, and in 2014 and this year, having heard nothing back, he reiterated his request for both countries’ assistance.

“Unfortunately, these efforts have proved futile,” Harmon said, adding that “[b]oth governments have failed to produce relevant documents that could assist with the investigations and have not allowed investigators from the Office of the Co-Investigating Judges access to specifically identified archives that contain relevant documents.”

The purpose of his statement, he said, is to urge both governments to “comply fully with the outstanding requests for assistance” in the interests of justice.

Long Panhavuth, a court monitor and program officer with the Cambodian

Justice Initiative, told Anadolu Agency on Monday that he welcomed Harmon’s attempts to “further the progress and conduct of the investigation.”

“It is surprising that the request for mutual assistance - as required by international criminal law- that they refused to cooperate,” Panhavuth said, adding that the failure to cooperate is an important development, particularly because the requests began in 2013.

He said he did not know exactly what kinds of documents Harmon may be after, but that they would clearly be of importance in determining a fair trial, if they are in favor of or against the innocence of the accused.

“I would say it needs to be addressed more diplomatically and politically,” Panhavuth stressed.

TRTWorld and agencies