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Judge defends investigations

Judge defends investigations

Cambodia Co-Investigating Judge You Bunleng said yesterday that both he and his former counterpart Siegfried Blunk had been conducting “independent” investigations into the Khmer Rouge tribunal’s third and fourth cases, as fallout from Blunk’s shock resignation continued into its third day.

“His resignation was very surprising to me,” Judge Bunleng said in an unofficial translation of a statement issued by the court. Blunk’s decision to quit was sparked by repeated statements from government officials regarding cases 003 and 004 that he claimed would “be perceived as attempted interference”.

Investigations into the two cases have been dogged by allegations of political pressure. In April, judges Blunk and Bunleng closed the investigation into Case 003, prompting international co-prosecutor Andrew Cayley to state that alleged crimes in the case had “not been fully investigated”.

Observers of the United Natons-backed tribunal speculated that the investigation had been scuttled in the face of political pressure.

However, Judge Bunleng said yesterday that both judges had been working on cases 003 and 004 “independently without any obstacle”.

“We have been taking judicial investigation acts in the cases 003 and 004, particularly performing the witness interviews and conducting some crime-site identifications,” he said.

Rights groups have called for the UN to confront allegations of political influence at the court, and a defence lawyer for former Khmer Rouge Brother Number Two and Case 002 suspect Nuon Chea told the Post yesterday that, in the interests of delivering a fair trial, such accusations should be investigated.

“Strong evidence suggests that there is government interference,” Michiel Pestman, co-defence counsel for Nuon Chea, said.

Since Judge Blunk’s resignation, the government has emphasised that it respects the tribunal’s independence.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated yesterday that the government had “never interfered and will never interfere” in the court and “has maintained its full respect for the independence of the tribunal”.

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