Meas Muth

22.04.2016 ( Last modified: 09.06.2016 )
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Meas Muth, originally from Cambodia, has been accused of having committed war crimes and crimes against humanity during the Khmer Rouge dictatorship in Cambodia.

Muth was involved in the Cambodian communist movement from the 1960s, when he was part of a pro-revolutionary movement active in some pagodas of Phnom Penh. After a quick ascension in the ranks of the Khmer Rouge army, he was put in charge of different sections in the country (sections were assigned according to different geographical areas).

On 17 April 1975, Muth became secretary of division 164 of the central area of Cambodia, which included a recently created navy and some specials units related to it. At the same time he also took part in many political and general staff meetings.

At that time Muth was directly in charge of the 164 division’s sections, which was patrolling the gulf of Siam. The navy was sometimes involved in combat against Vietnamese or Thai military vessels and attacked civilian fishing boats or boats carrying Vietnamese civilians trying to escape abroad. Many Thai and Vietnamese civilians were killed during these attacks. Vietnamese soldiers and civilians who were captured during these attacks were sent to the detention centre S-21 in order to be executed there, particularly after the Khmer Rouge regime started launching attacks against Vietnam.

At the end of 1978, Muth used his authority as a member of the central committee and of the general staff to execute a purge inside the Khmer Rouge and towards the local population in the same region: some of the victims were transferred to S-21 centre while others were executed in the region.

Investigations showed that Muth was controlling the city of Sihanoukville, the security centre of Wat Eng Tea Nhien and the Stung Hav Rock Quarry (centre of forced labour). He was also responsible for having sent people to S-21, a torture centre where many Vietnamese and Thai fishermen had been executed. During the investigations, evidence also found of his potential responsibility in sending military troupes in Vietnam between 1977 and 1978; attack that led to many atrocities and acts of violence against Vietnamese population.

Not only accused in the case 003 open in 2009 by the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia – ECCC (special court composed by both Cambodian and international judges), Muth is also a key witness who could provide the Court with a lot of relevant information about the military command structure of the Khmer Rouges.

legal procedure

Not only accused in the case 003 open in 2009 by the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia – ECCC (special court composed by both Cambodian and international judges), Muth is also a key witness who could provide the Court with a lot of relevant information about the military command structure of the Khmer Rouges.

Muth is one of the suspects in case 003, case conducted by the extraordinary chambers of the Cambodian tribunal. He is accused of having committed war crimes (concerning the Cambodian’s invasions in Thailand) and crimes against humanity (concerning the deportation of people and the torture centres).

Among the defendants there is also Sou Met, ex-commander of the Air force.

Case 003 was dropped in April 2011 under Cambodian’ government’s pressure. Human Rights Watch reported the closing down of the dossier and the pressure exerted by the government on the ECCC. Muth was acquitted under unusual circumstances; the Cambodian judges of the ECCC unanimously agreed on dropping Case 003. Some organisations accused Cambodian judiciary and governmental institutions of corruption. After the fall of the Khmer Rouges, Muth became a consultant in the Cambodian army.

However, and in spite of the withdrawal of the charges, further investigations were conducted against Muth. These investigations, consistently opposed by the Cambodian government, suffered from great political pressure.

On 3 March 2015, the ECCC decided to charge Muth in absentia with the crimes of homicide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, allegedly committed during the Khmer Rouge dictatorship in various security centres against Vietnamese, Thai and other foreign nationals. The underlying offences of the crimes Muth is accused of include murder, extermination, enslavement, persecution, unlawful confinement of civilians, unlawful deportation or transfer, wilful causing of great suffering or serious injury to body or health, and torture.

These charges, highly controversial within the tribunal, were brought by the international investigating judge without the support of his local counterpart.

Muth was charged in absentia because of the lack of cooperation of the Cambodian judicial police, which refused to escort him to the tribunal.


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.

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