The Cambodian government believes there is “nothing to be concerned about” in the latest controversy to rock the Khmer Rouge tribunal it jointly backs with the UN, government officials said yesterday.
Council of Ministers’ Press and Quick Reaction Unit spokesman Ek Tha told the Post that from the point of view of the government, the tribunal is running smoothly and normally.
“I would like to emphasise and stress that the Royal Government of Cambodia does not see any problems with the ECCC,” Ek Tha said yesterday. “The government does not see anyone on the Cambodian side at the court break any rules.
“The government point of view is that the Cambodian side has not breached any internal regulations,” Ek Tha said, adding that, in his opinion, the tribunal was a “model court” and the Cambodian and international sides were working “side by side” to ensure genocide is never repeated.
Calling it quits
UN-nominated reserve Co-Investigating Judge Laurent Kasper-Ansermet quit the court this week after being “totally blocked” from conducting proper investigations into government opposed cases 003 and 004.
He laid the blame squarely at the feet of his Cambodian counterpart, You Bunleng, and an administrative order he allegedly gave demanding Cambodian staff not cooperate with the UN judge.
He is the second international judge to quit the court and allege sabotage of the investigations in two months.
His predecessor quit citing political interference into the two cases.
The Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General of the UN told the Post yesterday that it is “seriously concerned about these worrying developments”.
“It is in the process of assessing the situation with the assistance of the Secretary-General’s Special Expert,” the OSSG said by email.
“The Secretary-General reiterates that the decision not to appoint Laurent Kasper-Ansermet as International Co-Investigating Judge of the ECCC is a breach … of the Agreement between the United Nations and the Royal Government of Cambodia,” the UN said, adding that the failure of Cambodia’s Supreme Council of Magistracy to endorse his appointment caused the current impasse at the court.
Court monitor Open Society Justice Initiative yesterday called on the UN to reconsider its entire commitment to the Khmer Rouge tribunal.
“The United Nations must now determine whether its continued partnership in the ECCC is a genuine search for truth and justice, or rather an international endorsement of a Cambodian government controlled and politically driven process,” the OSJI press release states.
The OSJI also highlighted the “persistent, well-documented violations of the rights of suspects and victims alike throughout the course of the flawed judicial investigation into Cases 003 and 004”.
Case for hope
The latest blow to investigations into cases 003 and 004 has left civil party lawyers crest-fallen.
“With the resignation of Mr Kasper-Ansermet, seeking justice for the victims will be hopeless,” civil party lawyer Hong Kimsuon, who represents more than 200 civil party applicants, told the Post. “They really want to see the people who have committed these crimes to be punished, so that victims can finally feel calm.”
Sam Sokong, another civil party lawyer who represents the interests of about 250 civil party applicants, said he had lost almost all hope for the cases.
“I can hardly believe they will happen,” he said by telephone. “The civil parties in these cases and other victims will never receive justice if these cases are not advanced.
“There will continue to be impunity for the perpetrators.”
However, Ek Tha claimed the government’s work with the court provided a good international example.
“We had defections of all the top leaders of the Khmer Rouge by 1998,” he said. “If we wanted to kill them, we would have killed them already, but we didn’t take any shortcuts – we respect the law.
“We are even better than Libya in that respect,” Ek Tha said.
To contact the reporter on this story: Bridget Di Certo at firstname.lastname@example.org