Cambodian Co-Investigating Judge You Bunleng has accused his reserve international counterpart at the Khmer Rouge tribunal of intending to conceal a public statement regarding the court’s controversial third and fourth cases from national officials at the United Nations-backed court.
International Reserve Co-Investigating Judge Laurent Kasper-Ansermet revealed in a statement released by the court yesterday that Bunleng had disagreed with him about the release of “important” information relating to cases 003 and 004.
“[The international reserve co-investigating judge] regrets that the National Co-Investigating Judge does not agree to release information about important decisions submitted in December by the International Reserve Co-Investigating Judge in Case Files 003 and 004,” the statement reads.
In a response released by the court, Bunleng said that Kasper-Ansermet’s issuing the statement on a national holiday, when Cambodian court officials were not working at the court, reflected “an intention to conceal it from the knowledge of all national sides” and that the reserve judge was acting as an “outreach officer rather than a Judicial one”.
Speaking on behalf of Kasper-Ansermet yesterday, court spokesman Lars Olsen said that the judge had sent a copy of his statement to Bunleng on Friday afternoon.
Neither Kasper-Ansermet nor Bunleng could be reached for comment.
Yesterday was not the first time the two judges have clashed since Kasper-Ansermet was nominated as co-investigating judge at the court by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon.
On December 6, Kasper-Ansermet stated that he had assumed his office in Phnom Penh and would “endeavour to keep the public sufficiently informed” about developments in cases 003 and 004, in accordance with court rules.
On the same day, Bunleng said in a statement that any procedural action taken by Kasper-Ansermet was legally invalid until he was officially nominated by Cambodian authorities for the role.
He reiterated claims yesterday that Kasper-Ansermet did not have the legal authority to take action in respect to the case files.
Olsen said that he was not in a position to comment where there appeared to be a disagreement between Bunleng and Kasper-Ansermet about “what authority the international reserve has”.
Kasper-Ansermet, a Swiss national, is set to replace former international co-investigating judge Siegfried Blunk, who resigned in October citing statements from government officials that cases 003 and 004 may not proceed as his motivation.
Blunk’s resignation came amid criticism of himself and Bunleng after the investigation into Case 003 was quietly closed in April, reportedly without the judges having interviewed suspects or conducted visits to crime sites.
Kasper-Ansermet must be officially appointed to the position of international co-investigating judge by the Cambodian Supreme Council of Magistracy.
When asked about the delay in Kasper-Ansermet’s appointment, Ek Tha, spokesman at the Press and Quick Reaction Unit at the Council of Ministers, said the government had no intention to “delay and interfere” with the work of the court.
Members of the Supreme Council of Magistracy could not be reached for comment.
Clair Duffy, a tribunal monitor for Open Society Justice Initiative, said that while Kasper-Ansermet’s role remains unclear, the office of the co-investigating judges will be at a stalemate.
“The Cambodian government stalling on Judge Kasper-Ansermet’s appointment … is a huge cause for concern for cases 003 and 004 and for the court’s credibility,” Duffy said.