International co-investigating judge Mark Harmon has tendered his resignation to the Khmer Rouge tribunal, a move that comes on the heels of a protracted struggle with Cambodian authorities over a pair of arrest warrants for suspects in government-opposed cases.
In a brief statement yesterday, Harmon said it was “with considerable regret that I have tendered my resignation, for strictly personal reasons”, and that the resignation would take effect upon the arrival of his successor.
“It was an honor to have been selected to serve as the International Co-Investigating Judge in the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia and to have had the privilege, along with my international and Cambodian colleagues, to pursue justice on behalf of the many victims who suffered at the hands of the Khmer Rouge,” he added.
However, Harmon’s tenure was marked by repeated instances in which he and his national counterpart, judge You Bunleng, publicly differed on the direction the court should take with regard to Cases 003 and 004. Bunleng yesterday declined to comment.
The Cambodian government has maintained that the court will not expand its scope beyond its first two cases against S-21 prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Duch, and the Khmer Rouge’s senior-most surviving members Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan. Prime Minister Hun Sen has gone so far as to say that to try further cases could result in civil war.
Harmon, however, persisted in investigating Cases 003 and 004, at times submitting orders without the signature of Bunleng. Most recently, Harmon unilaterally charged Case 003 suspect Meas Muth with crimes against humanity, and issued two separate warrants for his arrest – one in December of 2014, and another early last month.
Judicial police have so far failed to act on either, and have given no indication of when or if they intend to.
But despite the imbroglio over the warrant, court legal communications officer Lars Olsen insisted yesterday that Harmon’s decision to leave the court was “completely unrelated to any developments in the cases”.
“It has, in fact, been two months since he tendered his resignation,” he added.
According to Olsen, any orders issued by Harmon will remain valid unless overturned by the court.
Harmon is just the latest in a string of judges to leave the court amid controversy. His immediate predecessor, for example, Laurent Kasper-Ansermet, was never confirmed as co-investigating judge by the government’s Supreme Council of Magistracy after members took exception to tweets he made expressing his desire to investigate Cases 003 and 004.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY MAY TITTHARA