Response by the Co-Lawyers to the OCIJ Press Statement on the dismissal of the charges against Ms. IM Chaem

ECCC

ECCC

Dr. BIT Seanglim and Wayne Jordash QC, Co-Lawyers for Ms. IM Chaem, welcome the decision by the Co-Investigating Judges to dismiss the charges against our client. We are grateful to the Co-Investigating Judges for their careful consideration of the facts and the law and their decision to issue the disposition of the Closing Order to ensure Ms. IM Chaem’s rights.

The ECCC has shown with this landmark decision that it is capable of delivering justice that meets international standards. Although we await the full reasoning of the Co-Investigating Judges, we are confident that the decision – that the ECCC lacked personal jurisdiction over our client – reflects a reasonable view of the evidence and the law. We are satisfied that the Co-Investigating Judges adequately and fairly evaluated the evidence to find that Ms. IM Chaem was neither a senior leader nor one of those “most responsible”. As was crystal clear from any reasoned view of the evidence and the law, this was not a case that the International Co-Prosecutor ought to have pursued and it has cost our client dearly.

There are of course no winners in cases such as these. The International Co-Prosecutor ought to have pursued justice for the victims by adopting a more careful and focused approach on relevant suspects. On any reasonable view of the evidence, it was always clear that Ms. IM Chaem was not such a person. Nonetheless, despite these regrettable circumstances and after almost ten years of investigation, our client welcomes the dismissal of all charges. She has always denied every allegation and today’s decision is a significant step towards vindicating her and clearing her name. The decision is a milestone in her long and difficult march towards justice.

Accordingly, the Defence looks forward to receiving the full reasoning in support of the decision in the near future. At this time, the Defence hopes that the International Co-Prosecutor will properly consider and weigh the interests of justice in deciding whether to pursue an appeal of this decision.

Prosecutions of Syrian War Crimes

A man inspects a damaged house after an airstrike on al-Yadouda village, in Deraa Governorate, Syria February 15, 2017. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Faqir

A man inspects a damaged house after an airstrike on al-Yadouda village, in Deraa Governorate, Syria February 15, 2017. ©REUTERS

On Thursday, the United Nations announced that a new body is being set up to prepare prosecutions of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Syria. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is due to name a judge or prosecutor as its head this month.

While the independent panel, which is officially called the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism to Assist in the Investigation and Prosecution of Those Responsible for the Most Serious Crimes under International Law Committed in [Syria] since March 2011, is not able to prosecute individuals itself, it will collect and preserve evidence and prepare files for future prosecutions which states or international courts can use.

In December, the UN General Assembly voted to establish the mechanism. The United Nations aims to recruit 40-60 experts in investigations, prosecutions, the military, and forensics.

A UN Commission of Inquiry has already been collecting evidence since 2011. It has issued 20 reports accusing the Assad government, rebel forces and Islamic State of mass killings, rapes, disappearances and recruiting child soldiers.

Also on Thursday in a landmark ruling, a Swedish Court sentenced a Syrian man to life imprisonment for violating international humanitarian law through his participation in the execution style-murder of seven men in Syria in 2012. Under Swedish law, courts can try Swedish citizens as well as other nationals for crimes committed abroad.

Other European countries have similarly started investigations and prosecutions against people accused of committing serious crimes in Syria. The cases are based on the principle of universal jurisdiction and are possible because of the arrival in Europe of both victims and suspects as refugees.

Amnesty International reported last week the Syrian government executed up to 13,000 prisoners in mass hangings and carried out systematic torture at a military jail.

Myanmar: UN Report Condemns Human Rights Violations against Muslim Minority

Rohingya Village

Rohingya Village in Myanmar

On Friday, a new UN report has accused Myanmar’s security forces of waging a brutal campaign of murder, rape and torture in the Rakhine State against Rohingya Muslims, a stateless minority not recognized by Myanmar.

The report, compiled after interviews with more than 200 Rohingya refugees who fled from Myanmar to Bangladesh, also cites consistent testimony indicating that hundreds of Rohingya houses, schools, markets, shops, madrasas and mosques were burned by the army, police and sometimes civilian mobs.

Witnesses also described the destruction of food and food sources, including paddy fields, and the confiscation of livestock.

While discrimination against the Rohingyas has been endemic for decades in the Rakhine State, the recent level of violence is unprecedented, says the report.

The testimonies, gathered by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, indicate that the attacks against the Rohingya villages make it impossible for them to live in their villages, thereby creating a coercive environment amounting to forced displacement.

The information also demonstrates that the victims were targeted based on their belonging to a particular ethnicity and religion.

Many victims mentioned that soldiers and officers taunted them by saying that Islam is not the religion of Myanmar; that Rohingyas are Muslim Bengalis; and that Rohingyas would be eliminated from Myanmar.

The report says that the attacks against the Rohingya population in the area seem to have been widespread as well as systematic, indicating the very likely commission of crimes against humanity.

An estimated 65,000 members of the Muslim minority community have fled to Bangladesh since violence broke out in Myanmar last October.