Im Chaem was born in 1946 in the Takeo province, Cambodia.
Between 1976 and 1979, during the Khmer Rouge’s regime, Chaem became Deputy Secretary of the Koh Andet District in the Takeo province and later promoted to District Chief of the Preah Net Preah District in the Banteay Meancheay province. During this time, Chaem managed a labour camp involved in the construction of the Speang Spreng dam in which thousands of people were killed or died due to the extremely harsh working conditions.
Chaem also managed the Phnom Trayoung security centre in which many detainees were subjected to extreme violence and killed.
On 7 September 2009, the Office of the International Co-Prosecutors of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) filed a request to the ECCC’s Office of the Co-Investigating Judges (OCIJ) to initiate an investigation on five suspects, including Chaem.
On 3 March 2015, the OCIJ charged Chaem in absentia with homicide as well as crimes against humanity allegedly committed at Phnom Trayoung security centre and Spean Sreng work site. The underlying offences of crimes against humanity include murder, extermination, enslavement, imprisonment, persecution on political grounds and other inhumane acts.
On 22 February 2017, the OCIJ dismissed the case on jurisdictional grounds as Chaem was not considered a senior leader nor one of the most responsible officials of the Khmer Rouge regime, thus she fell outside the ECCC’s personal jurisdiction.
The case was highly controversial within the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, as it resulted in a clash between the Cambodian and the International components of the Office of the Co-Investigating Judges, with the latter charging the accused without the support of the former. In addition, Chaem was the first accused before the Court who was considered a low-level perpetrator and whose case was dismissed on such grounds.
Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC)
On 13 May 2003, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution approving a proposed agreement reached between the UN and Cambodia concerning the prosecution of those holding major responsibility for the crimes committed between 1975 and 1979 (A/RES/57/228/B). The agreement provided for the setting up of Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), integrated into the existing judicial system, and in which International judges would also preside. The court would be funded by voluntary contributions.
On 4 October 2004, the Cambodian Nation Assembly ratified this treaty. On 27 October 2004, the treaty was proclaimed into law by the King. The ECCC has jurisdiction with respect to crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the violations of the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property.
In 8 May 2006, 17 Cambodian and 12 international judges to the ECCC were appointed by royal decree. And in 7 July 2006 the ECCC announced the establishment of a defenders council staffs by foreign lawyers to ensure adequate defence.
On 18 July 2007, the Co-prosecutors of the ECCC announced that they had transferred to the ECCC judges the files of five suspects, expected to be tried notably for genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions, homicide, torture and religious persecution. The investigating judges (a foreign and a Cambodian judge) were then to examine the cases and decide whether and which of the suspects would be tried by the ECCC.
On 31 July 2007, Guek Eav Kaing, “Duch” became the first suspect to be arrested and detained by the ECCC and on 26 July 2010, the Trial Chamber found him guilty of crimes against humanity and grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 1949, sentencing him to 35 years of imprisonment. On 16 September 2010 the ECCC indicted Thirith Ieng, Sary Ieng, Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea on charges of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and murder.