Ao An, a former senior Khmer Rouge official and suspect in Case 004/2 of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), died at the age of 87 in Battambang province, according to ECCC spokesperson Neth Pheaktra.
Pheaktra said Case 004/2 against An officially closed before the ECCC – commonly known as Khmer Rouge Tribunal – on August 10.
An was initially charged by the ECCC’s international co-prosecutors for genocide against the Cham people in Kampong Cham province, crimes against humanity, and violations of the 1956 Penal Code, namely premeditated homicide.
An was believed to be the secretary of Sector 41, also known as the Khmer Rouge’s Central Zone. He was also suspected of being a member of the Central Zone Committee and the deputy-secretary of the Central Zone from late 1977 to January 1979.
His case was controversial as the national co-investigating judge argued that An did not fall under the ECCC’s jurisdiction. They claimed An could not be considered one of the most responsible people for the atrocities committed or one of the top leaders of the Khmer Rouge and filed an appeal against the international co-investigating judge’s charges.
But the international co-investigating judge maintained that An did indeed fall under the ECCC’s jurisdiction as well as one of the people most responsible for committing atrocities.
Although the international co-investigating judge said they had sufficient evidence to prove their claims, Pheaktra said the case against An halted without a conviction anyway.
He said: “The Supreme Court Chamber had considered that although there was agreement concerning the number of victims in the Central Zone of Democratic Kampuchea, there was no agreement after 13 years of investigation about whether Ao An fell under the jurisdiction of the ECCC.”
Lor Chunthy, one of the Civil Party co-lawyers at the ECCC, said as per procedure, a case ends when the court halts proceedings without any objection from prosecutors.
Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Centre of Cambodia (DC-Cam), said An’s death should bring people together as Cambodia continues its journey to uphold the principles of human rights and prevent mass atrocities from returning.
“It is the responsibility of everyone, both the government and citizens,” he said.
In early September, Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, the former chief of the notorious Khmer Rouge S-21 Tuol Sleng security centre, died at 78. He was the first person to be convicted by the ECCC. Khieu Samphan is the last remaining former member of the Khmer Rouge to be convicted by the ECCC and serving time in its detention facility.