Khieu Samphan Charged With Crimes Against Humanity, War Crimes

Posted by khmernews on December 11, 2007

Khieu Samphan, former president of the Democratic Kampuchea State Presidium, who has denied he had been related to the mass killings of almost 2 million people during his group’s reign, eventually becomes the fifth suspect who the Extraordinary Chambers has arrested and charged with crimes against humanity and war crimes. The Co-Investigating Judges have issued a provisional detention order to place [Khieu Samphan] for the period not exceeding one year in detention facility with other 4 of his former colleagues including Kaing Guek Eav, Nuon Chea, Ieng Sary and Ieng Thirith.
The Khmer Rouge Tribunal on November 19, 2007 issued an arrest warrant to bring Khieu Samphan from Calmette Hospital after he had recovered from high blood pressure and charged him on the same date. At present, the Co-Lawyers of the former Khmer Rouge head of state, Say Borey and Jacques Verges, are preparing to appeal to the Pre-Trial Chamber of the Extraordinary Chambers in order to request for Khieu Samphan’s release on bail.

According to the provisional detention order issued by Co-Investigating Judges You Bunleng and Marcel Lemonde, Khieu Samphan is being prosecuted for Crimes Against Humanity (murder, extermination, imprisonment, persecution and other inhumane acts) and war crimes on the basis of Grave Breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 1949 (wilful killing, wilfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health, wilful deprivation of rights to a fair trial of prisoners of war or civilians, unlawful deportation or transfer or unlawful confinement of a civilian).

Khieu Samphan has been alleged to have committed both of these crimes throughout Cambodia during the period from 17 April 1975 to 1 January 1979. The accusations have been made as Khieu Samphan had been in his capacity as Head of State (Chairman of the State Presidium), a leader within the Centre Political Office (Office 870), and as a full rights member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK); instigated, or otherwise aided and abetted in the commission of the aforementioned crimes; by directing, encouraging, enforcing, or otherwise rendering support to CPK policy and practice which was characterised by murder, extermination, imprisonment, persecution on political grounds and other inhumane acts such as forcible transfers of the population, enslavement, and forced labour; as part of a widespread or systematic attack targeting a civilian population.

The Co-Prosecutors of the Extraordinary Chambers have requested the provisional detention of Khieu Samphan on the grounds: that there is a danger that he will flee, as he lives near the Thai border and now faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment if convicted; that, if he remains at liberty, this could provoke the anger of victims and the public (especially because, since arrests have been made, the number of complaints is increasing constantly); that there would, thus, be a danger of disruption of public order and acts of revenge that could place the personal security of the Charged Person at risk, as shown by the violence to which he was subjected in 1991 at the time of his return to Phnom Penh; that most of the witnesses are former subordinates of Khieu Samphan and would no longer dare to testify if he remains at liberty. The Co-Prosecutors stressed that he was Head of Sate of a regime responsible for 1.7 million victims; that, while it is true that he was not a member of the CPK Standing Committee, he was present during its meetings; and that he never made the slightest declaration or intervention to prevent the crimes.

Khieu Samphan disputed the acts with which he is charged, arguing that the Co-Prosecutors have done nothing more than recall the functions occupied by him, which cannot suffice to justify the charges. As regards his exact role, he claimed that he held no effective power. As Chairman of the State Presidium, he only had a representative role, comparable to that of the King in the current regime. He was never Chairman of Office 870, just a simple member whose task was to prepare a list of prices of goods for the cooperatives. He added that, within this organization, secrecy was compulsory: everyone dealt solely with his or her task and knew nothing about the tasks of the others. Regarding his position as a member of the Central Committee, he specified that all the important decisions were made by the Standing Committee, of which he was not a member. He admitted to having attended some “widened” meetings of the Standing Committee, but claimed that only general issues were discussed in his presence, such as national defence, relations with Vietnam and the resignation of Norodom Sihanouk, issues about which he had to be informed so as to be able to talk to diplomats. He argued that, given his social background, he was seen as a patriotic intellectual who would never be able to become a revolutionary leader. Concerning the absence of any declaration against the policy of the Khmer Rouge leaders, he insisted that he replaced Norodom Sihanouk as Head of State in April 1976 and that, a month later, on 14 May 1976, they received a “Vietnamese ultimatum” through the maritime boundaries issue. He stated that in such circumstances, as a Khmer, he could not speak out and spread division. In conclusion with respect to his role, he claimed that there was no reason to fear that his “subordinates” would not dare to testify against him, for the simple reason that he did not have any, adding that, “in the current circumstances, people might prefer to testify against any Khmer Rouge leader in order to obtain some benefit”.  As regards the arguments put forward by the Co-Prosecutors in support of provisional detention, he declared that he never had the intention to escape, that the risk of disrupting public order was inexistent, noting that, since 1998 when he rallied the Government, he has lived in several houses in Pailin without any specific protection; that, on the contrary, when he had hypertension problems recently, everyone came to his home to help; and that the 1991 events, of which he was a victim, intervened in the specific context of the application of the Paris Agreements, such that political questions interfered in the case and it was not an issue of personal hatred. In View of all of these elements, recalling the principle of the presumption of innocence and the principle that freedom is the rule and provisional detention the exception, the accused Khieu Samphan asked to be left at liberty.

In light of the many documents and witness statements contained in the Case File, there are well-founded reasons to believe that Khieu Samphan is criminally responsible for the acts with which he is charged. In particular, as a senior CPK leader and as Head of State, he exercised real authority, as perceived both in Cambodia and abroad. Through his acts, notably his speeches, the political training he conducted, his public approbation of the regime’s policy, and his denial in international forums of the crimes being committed (of which he was well aware), Khieu Samphan facilitated and legitimated, at the highest level, the continued perpetration of criminal acts throughout Cambodia.

These crimes are of a gravity such that, 30 years after their commission, they still profoundly disrupt public order to such a degree that it is not excessive to conclude that a decision to leave the Charged Person at liberty would, in the fragile context of today’s Cambodian society, risk provoking protests of indignation which could lead to violence and perhaps imperil the very safety of the Charged Person, given that the situation is clearly no longer perceived in the same way since the official prosecution has commenced.

In addition, it is absolutely essential for the continuing judicial investigation to prevent any pressure on witnesses and victims. However, it may be feared that, if the Charged Person were to remain at liberty, and would be in a position to organize such pressure. Indeed, henceforth, Khieu Samphan will have access to all of the elements in the case file of the judicial investigation, including the written records of interviews with specific witnesses, complaints and civil party applications. Whereas the nature of the alleged crimes makes it difficult for a suspect to identify and influence the very large number of potential witnesses before the judicial investigation begins, the same is not true once the Charged Person has knowledge of the identity of the inculpatory witnesses and victims involved in the proceedings.

The particular gravity of the crimes alleged against Khieu Samphan renders the risks set out above even more acute, and no bail order would be rigorous enough to ensure that the abovementioned requirements would be sufficiently satisfied and therefore detention remains the only means to achieve these aims. Consequently, Co-Investigating Judges You Bunleng and Marcel Lemonde, order that Khieu Samphan be placed in provisional detention for a period not exceeding one year.

-Extracted from Samleng Yuvachun Khmer, Vol. 14, #3194, Wednesday, November 28, 2007.


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