Genocide Charges Delivered to Muth

Phnom Penh Post | Tuesday, 15 December 2015 | Alessandro Marazzi Sassoon

Meas Muth, a former navy chief of the Khmer Rouge, smokes a cigarette at his house in Battambang province earlier this year. Muth was charged with genocide yesterday by Khmer Rouge tribunal judge Michael Bohlander. Photo by: Vireak Mai

Meas Muth, a former navy chief of the Khmer Rouge, smokes a cigarette at his house in Battambang province earlier this year. Muth was charged with genocide yesterday by Khmer Rouge tribunal judge Michael Bohlander. Photo by: Vireak Mai

Case 003 suspect Meas Muth was charged with genocide, crimes against humanity, grave breaches of the Geneva Convention and homicide yesterday morning by Khmer Rouge tribunal international co-investigating judge Michael Bohlander in Battambang town.

Muth had already been charged in absentia in March by former international co-investigating judge Mark Harmon, and though a court spokesman declined yesterday to comment on specific changes to the charges, some differences were evident from the court’s statements.

Notably, yesterday’s charge of genocide had been absent from the previous set. However, Bohlander’s charges appear to exclude the grave breaches of the Geneva Convention of “wilful deprivation of a prisoner of war or civilian’s right to fair and regular trials” and “unlawful deportation or transfer”, both of which had been included in Harmon’s decision.

Court spokesman Lars Olsen declined to comment on the details of the changes to the accusations or why they were made, saying the matter was “confidential by law”. Olsen also said “no investigative requests [by the defence] have been made public”.

Bohlander yesterday travelled to Battambang to read Muth the charges, which also include the grave breaches of “wilful killing”, “wilfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health”, torture and “unlawful confinement of civilians”.

He also accuses Muth of crimes against humanity, murder, extermination, enslavement, imprisonment, torture, persecution and inhumane acts – including inhumane treatment, forced labour, forced marriage and attacks on human dignity due to conditions of detention.

According to a statement from Bohlander’s office, the crimes were committed at “various security centres”, including S-21 and Wat Enta Nhien, as well as at the Stung Hav worksite and worksites at the Ream area cooperative, and in present-day Preah Sihanouk province.

The statement also says Muth is accused of crimes committed “by the Navy of Democratic Kampuchea in and around the islands claimed by Democratic Kampuchea”, and crimes committed “against members of Division 164, 502, 117, and 310”.

Yesterday’s charges invalidated Harmon’s, along with two orders the former judge had issued to bring Muth to Phnom Penh to hear the charges against him.

The orders had generated controversy when Cambodian authorities declined to act on either, which observers took to be evidence of government interference given its longstanding opposition to cases 003 and 004.

Prime Minister Hun Sen, a former Khmer Rouge cadre himself, had previously warned that cases 003 and 004 going to trial could spark civil war.

In an email yesterday, Muth’s international defence lawyer Michael Karnavas said his team has had access to the case file since March.

“Mr Meas Muth has been cooperating all along. It is nonsense to report otherwise,” Karnavas said, explaining why Muth had voluntarily appeared to hear the charges.

“He did not recognise Harmon’s summons since he was acting unilaterally and to our knowledge without the consent or approval or support of the national co-investigating judge.

We were also of the opinion that Harmon was acting as a prosecutor and not as a fair and objective investigating judge.”

However, as with Harmon’s charges, the statement from judge Bohlander appeared to be issued without the participation of his national counterpart, You Buleng.

The fresh charges against Muth come just days after Case 004 suspect Yim Tith was charged, also in a unilateral decision by Bohlander.

Mr Meas Muth charged in Case 003

Posted 14 December 2015 by ECCC

On 14 December 2015, the International Co-Investigating Judge charged Mr Meas Muth with the following alleged crimes:

  • Genocide;
  • Crimes against Humanity, namely 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);
  • Grave Breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 1949, namely wilful killing; wilfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health, torture and unlawful confinement of civilians.
  • Violations of the 1956 Cambodian Penal Code, namely premeditated homicide.

These crimes were allegedly variously committed

  • at various security centres, among them the S-21 Security Centre (Tuol Sleng),
  • additionally against members of Divisions 164, 502, 117, and 310,
  • at Wat Enta Nhien Security Centre,
  • at Stung Hav worksite,
  • by the Navy of Democratic Kampuchea in and around the islands claimed by Democratic Kampuchea,
  • at the Ream area co-operative including worksites at Kang Keng and Bet Trang, the Durian Plantation Execution Site, and the Toek Sap Security Centre, and
  • in Kampong Som.

A number of charges from the Decision of 3 March 2015 charging him in absentia were rescinded. That decision has now become moot, as is the arrest warrant of 10 December 2014. The arrest warrant of 4 June 2015 was rescinded, since Mr Meas Muth appeared voluntarily at the hearing.

The International Co-Investigating Judge Charges Meas Muth in absentia in Case 003

Statement of the International Co-Investigating Judge regarding Case 003

On 3 March 2015, the International Co-Investigating Judge charged Meas Muth in absentia with the following alleged crimes: homicide, as a violation of the 1956 Cambodian Penal Code; Crimes against Humanity of murder, extermination, enslavement, imprisonment, persecution on political and ethnic grounds, and other inhumane acts allegedly committed at Wat Enta Nhien security centre, Kampong Som, Kratie, S-21 security centre, and against Vietnamese, Thai and other foreigners at sea and on the islands over which Democratic Kampuchea claimed sovereignty; and Grave Breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 1949 through the commission of the crimes of unlawful confinement of civilians, wilful deprivation of a prisoner of war or civilian’s rights to fair and regular trials, wilful killing, unlawful deportation or transfer, wilful causing of great suffering or serious injury to body or health, and torture, allegedly committed in Kampong Som, Kratie, S-21 security centre, and against Vietnamese, Thai and other foreigners at sea and on the islands over which Democratic Kampuchea claimed sovereignty.

With the filing of these charges, the Internal Rules of the ECCC permit Meas Muth, through his lawyers, to have access to the case file and to participate in the investigation, thus accelerating its progress.  This will allow the investigation to proceed with full respect of the rights of all parties and to conclude it within a reasonable time with the issuance of a closing order.

The International Co-Investigating Judge Charges Meas Muth in absentia in Case 003

Statement of the International Co-Investigating Judge regarding Case 003

On 3 March 2015, the International Co-Investigating Judge charged Meas Muth in absentia with the following alleged crimes: homicide, as a violation of the 1956 Cambodian Penal Code; Crimes against Humanity of murder, extermination, enslavement, imprisonment, persecution on political and ethnic grounds, and other inhumane acts allegedly committed at Wat Enta Nhien security centre, Kampong Som, Kratie, S-21 security centre, and against Vietnamese, Thai and other foreigners at sea and on the islands over which Democratic Kampuchea claimed sovereignty; and Grave Breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 1949 through the commission of the crimes of unlawful confinement of civilians, wilful deprivation of a prisoner of war or civilian’s rights to fair and regular trials, wilful killing, unlawful deportation or transfer, wilful causing of great suffering or serious injury to body or health, and torture, allegedly committed in Kampong Som, Kratie, S-21 security centre, and against Vietnamese, Thai and other foreigners at sea and on the islands over which Democratic Kampuchea claimed sovereignty.

With the filing of these charges, the Internal Rules of the ECCC permit Meas Muth, through his lawyers, to have access to the case file and to participate in the investigation, thus accelerating its progress.  This will allow the investigation to proceed with full respect of the rights of all parties and to conclude it within a reasonable time with the issuance of a closing order.

Researchers Probe Alleged KR Island Massacre

By Lauren Crothers, Cambodia Daily, 29 August 2014

Koh Tang, an idyllic maritime outpost about 50 km off Cambodia’s southern coast, is best known as the site of the May 1975 Mayaguez incident, when Khmer Rouge forces captured a U.S. container ship and 41 American servicemen died in a rescue attempt.

But the attention of researchers at the Documentation Center of Cambodia (DC-Cam) has been sharply focused on the island since January, when a Vietnamese military official claimed it had been the site of a large-scale massacre of Vietnamese citizens at the hands of Khmer Rouge captors.

An article published in Vietnam’s Tuoi Tre News in January quotes a Vietnamese colonel, Bui Van Bong, who “recalled seeing the gruesome evidence of killings when he set foot on Koh Tang” several years after the capture of about 600 Vietnamese from the island of Tho Chu in May 1975. The article says 513 of these captured people from Tho Chu were taken to Koh Tang by the Khmer Rouge.

An islander is also quoted as saying that bound bodies were found at the feet of coconut trees, planted using forced labor. Some of the victims had been tied to a tree and put to death.

DC-Cam’s executive director, Youk Chhang, said he has been investigating the issue of the 600 missing Vietnamese since 1998. In 2000, Mr. Chhang interviewed a high-ranking Vietnamese official, Nguyen Gia Dang, about the issue.

“[Mr. Dang] said the Khmer Rouge captured at least 600 Vietnamese civilians from Tho Chu island and occupied the island as well. The Khmer Rouge later shipped those 600 Vietnamese civilians to Cambodia mainland,” Mr. Chhang said in an email.

But when the Vietnamese attacked and reclaimed their island later in 1975, they took the Khmer Rouge soldiers there hostage, releasing them only on the promise that the 600 Vietnamese would be returned.

Instead, a commander told them that “all are dead,” and Mr. Dang said that Nuon Chea, the Khmer Rouge second-in-command, later told him, “Ta Mok killed them all.”

DC-Cam investigator Long Dany has been connecting the dots on this new information since January—evidenced by a piece of paper he has covered in black-ink diagrams, tidbits of information and arrows pointing in all directions, charting out the facts as he goes. His investigation will likely see him revisiting old research in addition to searching for new leads.

“I have interviewed several Khmer Rouge Navy [veterans] over the past 10 years,” he said. “They have never talked about it. But if we know the information, we can ask what happened there and make a chain of command to the leaders in Phnom Penh.”

He explained that after the Khmer Rouge came to power in April 1975, the army’s Division 3 was dispatched to the Southwest Zone. So too was a regiment from the Eastern Zone which, when merged with the division, became known as Division 164.

Division 164 included the Khmer Rouge navy, and was led by a cadre called Meas Muth, who is now under investigation for crimes against humanity and war crimes at the Khmer Rouge tribunal.

The division was composed of three regiments—61, 62 and 63—and later joined by Regiment 140.

“Regiment 140 controlled the attack ships. When I interviewed soldiers, they told me Regiment 62 was sent to control Koh Tang and there were four battalions there,” Mr. Dany said, adding that the island was under the command of a man known by the revolutionary alias of Yeang, who died in 1979.

“I have met Regiment 62 people before. I will follow this case, interview them again, and ask about this new information,” Mr. Dany said.

He said the facts he gathers about the possible massacre on Koh Tang could be relevant to the Khmer Rouge tribunal’s case against Meas Muth, known as Case 003. The Cambodian government has publicly stated its opposition to the case and insisted that it must not move forward.

“This information is very important, particularly for investigating the case of Meas Muth in Case 003. We will go to the island and search for the crime sites and meet people who have lived there since the early ’80s,” Mr. Dany said.

The initial allegations compiled by prosecutors against Meas Muth do not mention a massacre on the island. The allegations were forwarded to investigating judges in 2009, and an investigation is ongoing.

Although what happened on Koh Tang might never be the subject of a court trial, finding out more about the events leading up to the alleged massacre could still have an impact on court proceedings.

William Smith, the tribunal’s deputy co-prosecutor, said in an email that the allegations could help prove there was armed conflict between Cambodia and Vietnam in 1975. This could help prosecutors demonstrate that Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan are guilty of war crimes when proceedings in the second phase of their trial begin later this year.

Mr. Smith said the investigation into what happened on Koh Tang would also help provide “relevant context to the acts of genocide alleged to have been committed by both Accused against the Vietnamese population from 1977 onwards.” These allegations of genocide will also be heard in the next trial phase.

Vong Dara, deputy chief of Koh Tang island’s Peam Prasap village, moved to the island in 1988. He said he has always heard rumors that “the Khmer Rouge took the Vietnamese to do hard work and then smashed them.”

“Actually, there’s a rumor about this, but there is no concrete evidence to prove it,” he said by telephone.

“I mean, villagers started moving back onto and inhabiting the island again in 1985…but we didn’t see any evidence such as bones and skulls or bodies of any dead persons found in this island at all,” Mr. Dara said. “So it’s just a rumor.”

However, his colleague, 58-year-old second deputy commune chief Lang Mann, said that he once happened upon three pits containing about 100 bodies on the nearby island of Koh Chas.

“I have never heard about the killing of people, especially Vietnamese people, on Koh Tang at all,” he said. “For myself, I was digging and found about 100 bodies inside a local pagoda, Wat Sakoram, on Koh Chas,” he added.