Citing “serious” concerns with the work of the Khmer Rouge tribunal, the United Nations said on Friday that it is in the process of selecting two international co-investigating judges to replace the ones who have resigned from the court, and urged the Cambodian government to offer them its “full cooperation”.
“Recent events at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia … have raised serious concerns about the ECCC judicial process in relation to Cases 003 and 004,” the statement, issued by the spokesperson for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, reads.
Less than two weeks ago, reserve international Co-Investigating Judge Laurent Kasper-Ansermet resigned amid what he said was persistent stonewalling by the Cambodian court staff of his efforts to investigate government-opposed cases 003 and 004.
And in October, Kasper-Ansermet’s predecessor, Siegfried Blunk, resigned citing government interference.
“The circumstances that have given rise to these two resignations remain worrying,” Ban’s statement says.
Although it does not provide a timeline for the selection of the new judges, the statement instructs the Cambodian government to “extend its full cooperation to the new judges”, adding that they should be “promptly appointed” by the Supreme Council of the Magistracy.
The statement also takes the Council to task for its failure to appoint Kasper-Ansermet.
“The Cambodian Supreme Council of the Magistracy did not appoint Judge Kasper-Ansermet as the international Co-Investigating Judge as it was required to do by the UN/Cambodia agreement,” the statement reads.
The statement also defends Kasper-Ansermet’s “full legal authority” to conduct investigations into cases 003 and 004. That authority had been consistently invalidated by the Swiss judge’s Cambodian counterpart, You Bunleng.
Reached yesterday, You Bunleng said he had no further comment about Kasper-Ansermet’s authority, and that he would “wait to work with” whomever the UN selects to replace Kasper-Ansermet.
“The decision of approval of the new judge … is not my decision, it’s the decision of the Supreme Council of the Magistracy,” he added.
Government officials refused to respond to the UN statement yesterday. Government spokesman Phay Siphan said “I have no business in this matter”, and referred all inquiries to Keo Remy, deputy president of the Press and Quick Reaction Unit, who hung up on a reporter and did not answer repeated phone calls after.
Information Minister Khieu Kanharith also hung up on a reporter and refused to answer subsequent calls.
UN Special Expert to the Khmer Rouge tribunal David Scheffer did not respond to questions prior to press time.