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Move on from Khmer Rouge court turmoil, say NGOs

The UN and the Cambodian government need to put the turmoil at the Khmer Rouge tribunal behind them and re-commit to strong leadership and the court’s success, a coalition of 22 Cambodian NGOs said on Friday.

The NGOs slammed the “obstructionist trend” at the tribunal, initiated by Cambodian co-investigating judge You Bunleng’s refusal to acknowledge the judicial acts of his international counterpart, as interfering with the course of justice.

“The tribunal is a crucial milestone for the Cambodian people and any action that slows down the process should be regarded as a gravest obstruction of justice,” the coalition, dubbed the Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee, wrote, calling on the UN to speed the process of appointing new international co-investigating judges.

CHRAC highlighted the blocked appointment of Case 004 lawyer Richard Rogers, the defence counsel for suspect Ta An, as the latest low point in the obstructionist trend.

Based on You Bunleng’s position that former international reserve co-investigating judge Laurent Kasper-Ansermet had no legal authority to act, a contingent of tribunal staffers view Kasper-Ansermet’s investigations into the government-opposed cases 003 and 004 as invalid.

“It seems UN officials at the ECCC have adopted this interpretation, which is contrary to the law, due to budgetary reasons,” CHRAC said. “CHRAC believes this to be a negative reflection on the will of the [UN] and international community to see cases 003 and 004 brought before the court.”

The international side of the tribunal is about US$25 million short of funds for 2012.

The Post asked tribunal legal affairs spokesman Lars Olsen yesterday whether there were funds to pay UN salaries for June.

“I have no new information about the budget. I am not going to speculate about salaries,” he said, directing further questions to UN special expert David Scheffer, who is in Phnom Penh this week to launch his memoirs on his work as a US ambassador for war crimes.

The coalition also urged the Khmer Rouge tribunal to play a broader role than “simply conducting a handful of criminal trials”.

It called for wider discussion about the Khmer Rouge period and other extra-judicial mechanisms to help survivors “come to terms with the past”.

CHRAC chairman Thun Saray said this would be the ideal legacy for the tribunal.

“[But] look at our government: we have a lot of people there who were former Khmer Rouge [and wouldn’t co-operate with extra-judicial mechanisms],” he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Bridget Di Certo at bridget.dicerto@phnompenhpost.com

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