After four months of seemingly endless conflict, Laurent Kasper-Ansermet is leaving the Khmer Rouge tribunal.
Cambodian staff at the tribunal have stonewalled all efforts by the UN-nominated reserve co-investigating judge to investigate government-opposed cases 003 and 004, effectively forcing his resignation, the judge announced yesterday.
The Swiss national tendered his resignation to the UN secretary-general, effective on May 4, 2012, in the midst of what he called a “dysfunctional situation within the ECCC”.
“I am truly blocked in every aspect,” Kasper-Ansermet told the Post yesterday.
“It is illegal, and I cannot validate this situation any more.”
Kasper-Ansermet’s Cambodian counterpart, You Bunleng, has opposed his authority to act in the capacity of reserve international co-investigating judge since the day the Swiss judge arrived in Cambodia.
However, this conflict has now spread and embroils the majority of tribunal sections key to fair and proper investigations into cases 003 and 004.
Information obtained by the Post yesterday revealed the rapidly deteriorating situation at the tribunal, in which national officers have prevented Kasper-Ansermet from conducting even the most basic functions of his office.
The head of the court management section and case file officer have refused to file Kasper-Ansermet’s Order on Resuming the Judicial Investigation in Case 003 under the instructions of the OCIJ national legal team leader and You Bunleng, a source from the court said yesterday.
This obstruction to filing has been extended to all case file documents created under the leadership of Kasper-Ansermet since his arrival in Cambodia, according to the source.
The effect of this is that no steps, including the resumption of investigations in Case 003, the continuation of investigations in Case 004 or records of investigators informing the five suspects of the charges against them and their rights have been filed with the court.
Further, as previously reported by the Post, national staff within the Court Management Section disregarded a judicial decision by Kasper-Ansermet to allow civil party applicant Rob Hamill’s lawyers access to the case file in 003.
This skirmish over access resulted in the OCIJ international legal team leader being banned from the Records and Archives Unit by the chief of the Court Management Section.
Access was only granted later by international staff.
Amid this widening divide, the source said that the national greffier of the OCIJ and You Bunleng’s administrative assistant have withheld the official OCIJ seal – the symbol of judicial authority of the office – from international staff in the office.
The Ministry of Interior additionally rejected a request by international staff for another seal because the request was not signed by both co-investigating judges.
It is in this context that Kasper-Ansermet opened an internal investigation for “interference with the administration of justice”, according to his press release yesterday.
However, even this internal investigation has been blocked by those under investigation who refused to respond to summons issued by international investigators.
International investigators were told that You Bunleng was the sole decider of policy within the OCIJ and made clear that all actions emanated from instructions of the Cambodian judge.
When contacted yesterday about the allegations, You Bunleng denied there was any ill intention on his part against Kasper-Ansermet.
“I actually never have had any dispute with him,” You Bunleng said by telephone yesterday.
“Of course I have met him, and we have discussed about work procedure, but my stance toward him has not changed from my previous statement.”
You Bunleng referred to a letter he addressed to Kasper-Ansermet on February 27, titled “Abrupt stop of unlawful acts and of the use of my name to link to these acts”.
You Bunleng wrote: “I would like to call for your abrupt stop of these unlawful acts and of the use of my name to link to such deeds, particularly to what you have so far considered solely as disagreements between co-investigating judges.”
The Post has previously reported on Kasper-Ansermet’s registration of a disagreement between the two judges.
In his response to that letter, Kasper-Ansermet wrote: “[I] urge you to comply with the law and to refrain from sending me admonitions that are without legal basis and whose sole aim seems to be undermining the proper performance of my duties.”
Council of Ministers’ spokesman Ek Tha said the government had no comment on Kasper-Ansermet’s resignation.
“All I can say is that the Royal Government of Cambodia is very clear and has never and will never interfere with the work of the ECCC,” Ek Tha said.
Clair Duffy of court monitor Open Society Justice Initiative said this was just the latest development in a history of Cambodian tribunal staff acting in accordance with executive will in respect to the government-opposed cases 003 and 004.
“It is interesting to see You Bunleng talk about Kasper-Ansermet’s unlawful conduct when you [consider that] every action and inaction and the unlawfulness of [Bunleng’s] conduct has been documented left, right and centre,” Duffy said.
“The UN and donors can stand upright now and address the heart of this issue.”