An international rights group has declared that the Co-Investigating Judges at the Khmer Rouge tribunal should resign, claiming they have “egregiously violated” their legal and judicial duties and Cambodians would have “no hope” of justice while they remained.
In a statement released yesterday, Human Rights Watch said that German Co-Investigating Judge Siegfried Blunk – who was nominated by the United Nations – and his Cambodian counterpart You Bunleng had “failed to conduct genuine, impartial and effective investigations” into the tribunal’s cases 003 and 004.
“The investigating judges concluded their investigation into Case 003 without notifying the suspects, interviewing key witnesses, or conducting crime site investigations,” HRW Asia director Brad Adams said in the statement.
“This would be shocking for an ordinary crime, but it’s unbelievable when it involves some of the 20th century’s worst atrocities. The Cambodian people have no hope of seeing justice for mass murder as long as these judges are involved.”
HRW said in the statement that the given the “politicised nature” of the tribunal, Cases 003 and 004 would “almost certainly” be dismissed.
Adams also claimed the court “was only going to be as strong as its weakest international link. Judge Blunk is that link”.
Judge You Bunleng told the Post yesterday that HRW was “looking from the outside”. “What I am doing is nothing wrong as it is abiding by the law,” he said. “I will work as normally.”
Court spokesman Lars Olsen said on behalf of the Co-Investigating Judges that they would continue to perform their duties “independently”.
“The ECCC proceedings have inbuilt checks and balances,” he said. “Any decision by the Co-Investigating Judges when made can be appealed to the Pre-Trial Chamber.”
HRW also said in the statement – which named all the alleged suspects in both upcoming trials – that current UN officials had “failed” in their responsibility to oversee the prosecution of Khmer Rouge crimes and that it should initiate an independent investigation to examine the conduct of the co-investigating judges and UN oversight of the tribunal.
Last month, New York-based independent monitoring group Open Society Justice Initiative reiterated recommendations made to the UN in June calling for an independent investigation into allegations of “judicial independence, misconduct, and competency”, particularly with regard to the actions of the Co-Investigating Judges.
Clair Duffy, an OSJI trial monitor based in Phnom Penh, said that concerns about the court’s independence raised before it was created appeared to have manifested in the current system. “Whether or not the judges should resign … is something that would be determined after there has been an appropriate investigation into their conduct,” Duffy added.