[JURIST] The UN-backed Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) [official website] charged two new suspects on Tuesday, despite a warning by the country’s prime minister not to add new defendants. The ECCC announced that former Khmer Rouge navy chief Meas Muth and former district commander Im Chaem [statements] have been charged in absentia with homicide and crimes against humanity, including enslavement, extermination and other inhumane acts. The charges must be accepted by the court’s senior judges before the two are indicted to face trial. Prime Minister Hun Sen said in a speech last week that if the tribunal added more defendants, it could incite [AFP report] former Khmer Rouge members to start a civil war. Both suspects were advised in 2012 that they were officially under investigation and should seek legal counsel. A lawyer for Meas Muth said that his client is in the country would will not flee. Im Chaem is also in the country but has been quoted in interviews [AP report] as saying that she does not recognize the court’s authority.
Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge tribunal restarted genocide hearings in January after proceedings were postponed last year when defense lawyers refused to participate [JURIST reports]. The Khmer Rouge [JURIST news archive] have been blamed for the deaths of nearly 2 million people between 1975 and 1979 during the reign of group leader Pol Pot [BBC profile]. The first case against the former leaders began in 2010, but the court did not hear closing arguments [JURIST report] until last year. Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] reported [JURIST report] last September that the refusal by the government of Cambodia to pay Cambodian staff at the ECCC was an attempt to undermine efforts to bring former Khmer Rouge leaders to justice.