Judges for the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) [official website; JURIST news archive] announced [press release] on Monday that they have "serious doubts" that the suspects being investigated by the court are those "most responsible" for the for alleged war crimes. The tribunal is responsible for investigating war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by Cambodia's communist Khmer Rouge regime [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] of the 1970s. The five suspects under investigation in Case 004 [materials], the judges contend, may not meet the "most responsible" standard, which is a jurisdictional requirement of Article 2 of ECCC law [ECCC backgrounder]. The judges also revealed details about the extent of the investigation, including the crime sites and criminal episodes under scrutiny. The cases currently under investigation by the ECCC are opposed by the Cambodian government [AFP report] and a dismissal of this case would likely discredit the court.
The Khmer Rouge have been blamed for the deaths of some 1.7 million people [PPU backgrounder] from starvation, disease, overwork and execution between 1975 and 1979. The UN-backed ECCC was established in 2001 to investigate and try those responsible for the Cambodian genocide that resulted in the deaths of approximately one-third of the Cambodian population. In June, the ECCC began the initial hearings [materials; agenda, PDF] in the trial of four former Khmer Rouge leaders [JURIST report] constituting Case 002 [materials]. The four leaders include Nuon Chea, who was Pol Pot's second-in-command and the group's chief ideologist, former head of state Khieu Samphan, ex-foreign minister Ieng Sary, and his wife, Ieng Thirith [case profiles, PDF], who served as minister for social affairs. All four have pleaded not guilty to charges including crimes against humanity, war crimes, genocide, religious persecution, homicide and torture. The ECCC handed down its first and only conviction [JURIST report] last year against Kaing Guek Eav [TrialWatch profile], better known as "Duch", who was in charge of the notorious S-21 prison in Phnom Penh. That case is currently on appeal.