Present government interference at the UN-backed Khmer Rouge tribunal has led to a “failure of credibility”, International Bar Association executive director Mark Ellis said in a report released yesterday.
Pha Lina/Phnom Penh Post
Prime Minister Hun Sen delivers a speech in Phnom Penh earlier this month.
ECCC/Phnom Penh Post
Co-investigating judge You Bunleng in a handout photo.
The report, the second from the IBA, attributes that failure directly due to the lack of judicial independence in Cambodia.
“A history of corruption within the Cambodian justice system, coupled with a weak disqualification mechanism, fails to adequately safeguard internationally accepted standards of judicial integrity,” the report states.
“The court’s handling of Case 003 and the Supreme Council of Magistracy’s rejection of Judge Kasper-Ansermet, the International reserve co-investigating judge, only highlight these shortcomings,” it continues.
A litany of allegations of political pressure, official obstruction and uncontrolled corruption on the part of the Cambodian government and the national side of the court is catalogued in the 30-page report, including the “pervasive and institutionalized nature of the executive interference with the Cambodian judiciary, and the deeply concerning failure by judicial bodies to deal with it”.
Ellis is critical of actions and statements by Prime Minister Hun Sen toward controversial cases 003 and 004 and in blocking certain executive members from giving testimony to the tribunal as part of investigations.
He is also critical of actions and statements by Cambodian Co-Investigating Judge You Bunleng in his involvement in blocking the Supreme Council of Magistracy appointment of Kasper-Ansermet, a role Ellis called a “significant conflict of interest”.
Hun Sen and You Bunleng were not the only Cambodians under the microscope in Ellis’ report – Trial Chamber Judge Nil Nonn, who is now presiding over Case 002 against an elderly trio of Khmer Rouge senior leaders, “should have been disqualified” the report states.
“Nil Nonn is on record as admitting to taking bribes in relation to cases. Moreover, there have been allegations that several other judges and Court officials secured their positions by paying bribes to members of the executive”.
The report also accuses the UN of adopting a “detrimental hands-off approach” at the tribunal and concludes that “ensuring the effective investigation of alleged governmental influence in judicial matters would go some way to tackling the actual and perceived institutional legitimacy problems that threaten the future of the ECCC”.
Tribunal legal affairs spokesman Lars Olsen yesterday said he had “no comments at all on a report by third parties”.
UN Special Expert David Scheffer did not respond to requests for comment.
The co-investigating judges “fiasco” is at the heart of the report. Hun Sen stalled the appointment of Kasper-Ansermet, telling the UN “prudent consideration” of the appointment was required due to the judge’s use of social-media website Twitter.
Kasper-Ansermet has tweeted links to critical articles and reports on the work of his predecessor Siegfried Blunk and Cambodian counterpart You Bunleng.
The IBA report analyses the criticisms levied against Kasper-Ansermet’s use of Twitter and draws the conclusion that his “Twitter posts fall short of infringing on international standards regarding a judge’s public involvement in controversial topics and government criticism,” adding that Kasper-Ansermet exercised “appropriate restraint”.
Ek Tha, representative of the Council of Minister’s Press and Quick Reaction Unit, told the Post the criticisms of the government were unfounded.
“You have to be careful when you criticise people and you don’t have any substantive information in your hand. You could be subjected to defamation law,” Ek Tha said.
“From the government’s point of view, it is very clear that there is no interference from the executive in the work of the ECCC.”