Lawyer Accuses Cambodian Leaders of Human Rights Violations

THE HAGUE, Netherlands—A human rights lawyer has called on the International Criminal Court to investigate Cambodian authorities and the country’s authoritarian leader, Prime Minister Hun Sen, for what he says is a systematic pattern of crimes to crush dissent and to shield former Khmer Rouge leaders from genocide prosecutions.
American attorney Morton Sklar said the request is based on attacks on political opponents and what he portrayed as Cambodian government’s efforts to stymie the work of the U.N.-backed tribunal prosecuting members of the Khmer Rouge regime, whose rule from 1975-1979 left an estimated 1.7 million people dead from starvation, disease, forced labor and executions.
Hun Sen’s administration did not immediately respond to calls seeking comment Thursday.
Chheang Vun, a lawmaker from Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party and a spokesman for the country’s National Assembly, predicted that the Hague-based court would not launch a probe.
“It’s just a complaint, nothing will happen,” Chheang Vun said.
In a telephone interview with The Associated Press, Sklar claimed that Hun Sen has “directly and personally tried to interfere with the operations of the Khmer Rouge tribunal … to shield perpetrators of the Khmer Rouge genocide from prosecution.”
While the Hague-based International Criminal Court cannot prosecute crimes committed before it was established in 2002, Sklar said alleged attempts to shield Khmer Rouge leaders from justice happened after that date and amount to complicity in genocide.
Cambodia also has already faced criticism for its crackdown on demonstrations. In January, four people were killed when police outside Cambodia’s capital opened fire to break up a protest by striking garment workers.
The U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in Cambodia, Surya Subedi, said it was the third time since disputed elections last year that Cambodian authorities have shot into a crowd and caused fatalities. He called for an independent investigation into possible excessive force.