*Cambodia’s Ruling Elite One Step Closer to International Court*

Court rules that company bosses and complicit politicians can be tried for
land grabbing and environmental destruction.
[image: luke_hunt_q]
By Luke Hunt <http://thediplomat.com/authors/luke-hunt/> | September 16,

Efforts to prosecute Cambodia’s ruling elite in the International Criminal
Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity were bolstered after the court
ruled company executives could be tried for land grabbing and environmental

The decision from The Hague is a significant policy change within the
internal ICC prosecution process for selecting and prioritizing cases.

Since opening its doors 14 years ago, the ICC has focused mainly on crimes
committed in armed conflicts such as crimes against humanity, among other
war crimes. Alleged atrocities committed for profit in peacetime had been
left aside by the ICC.
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This policy change includes crimes that “are committed by or result in the
destruction of the environment, the illegal exploitation of natural
resources, or the illegal dispossession of land.”

Gillian Caldwell, Global Witness Executive Director, said the decision
shows that the age of impunity – where communities are chased off their
land and the environment trashed as an accepted way of doing business – was
coming to an end.

“Company bosses and politicians complicit in violently seizing land, razing
tropical forests or poisoning water sources could soon find themselves
standing trial in the Hague alongside war criminals and dictators,” she

Two years ago, lawyers filed a criminal complaint
Cambodia’s “ruling elite” at the ICC alleging that crimes against humanity
had been committed by authorities responsible for widespread land grabbing.

The filing is widely being seen as a test case that human rights groups
hope will set a legal precedent with ramifications for land grabbers

Lawyers for Global Diligence LLP, representing ten filing victims, say that
about 777,000 Cambodians people had been affected by land grabbing and that
this amounts to a crime of forcible transfers under the ICC statute.

It claimed 145,000 people, or about one percent of the population, had been
forcible transferred from Phnom Penh alone, by 2012.

An initial assessment on whether to open a preliminary investigation
through the ICC’s Office of the Prosecutor, which would then send an
investigation team to Cambodia, was expected to take three to six months.

However, lengthy legal delays followed. But just last week, lawyers
stepped-up criminal proceedings, announcing plans to add the
of independent analyst Kem Ley to the existing Cambodian case under
consideration by the ICC.

He was shot twice
behind on July 10, three days after London-based Global Witness released a
report detailing the fabulous wealth and corporate assets held by the
family of Prime Minister Hun Sen.

His death also followed a crackdown on dissent by the prime minister ahead
of commune elections next June and general elections in July, 2018.

Twenty-nine supporters and members of the opposition Cambodian National
Rescue Party (CNRP) have faced legal action with 14 jailed.

CNRP leader Sam Rainsy has fled
<https://www.cambodiadaily.com/news/sam-rainsy-tried-november-117269/> into
exile after a long-dormant defamation suit was ressurected and he was
threatened with jail. His deputy, Kem Sokha, has been tried and sentenced
to five months behind bars in absentia, in a case that involves allegations
of prostitution, and he remains holed-up in CNRP headquarters.

Analysts said the government was unlikely to arrest him until all avenues
of appeal have been exhausted. The opposition claims all the charges were
untrue and politically motivated, which might also be of interest ICC

“This policy opens the door for the Prosecutor to take the Cambodia case,”
Global Witness spokeswoman Alice Harrison told* The Diplomat*.

“This bodes very well for the Cambodia case in our opinion. And sends a
clear message that the ICC Prosecutor is willing to take a progressive
position to deal with some of the most serious human rights challenges of
our age.”

*Luke Hunt can be followed on Twitter* @lukeanthonyhunt

Best Regards,

*Khmer Forum*
*A place for sharing community events and public news.*

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