Official secrecy and allegations of corruption surrounding the selection of KR
Tribunal judges continues to cast doubt on the court's ability to field a
competent and transparent judiciary.
The Supreme Council of Magistracy
(SCM) will begin selecting Cambodian judges for the tribunal within months, yet
the criteria that will be used to appoint them has not been made public nor have
the names of potential candidates been released.
The secrecy has sparked
concern from trial watchers and many human rights groups.
judges is most important for the Khmer Rouge Tribunal," said Ouk Vandeth,
director of Legal Aid of Cambodia and member of the Cambodian Human Rights
Action Committee (CHRAC). " ... Cambodian people want to be confident in the
court, so if the names of the judges are secret, what is
Much interest has focussed on the names of 30 judges who
attended one or both two-week training courses held in September 2004 and
April-May this year.
A joint effort between the UN Development Programme,
the KRT taskforce and the Royal School for Judges and Prosecutors, the courses
covered criminal law, humanitarian law, and Cambodian rules of procedure and
Though the classes are not officially part of the trial's
mandate, observers expect that Cambodian tribunal judges will be selected from
those attending the courses.
Recent media reports have claimed that three
of the judges thought to be attending training have never completed university.
Another judge allegedly dropped out of the course after being accused of
accepting bribes to illegally release thieves.
NGOs have repeatedly
requested that the UN and the Cambodian government ensure "judges meet
international standards and that they should be selected through an open and
fair appointment process."
"We continue to fear that although Cambodians
fully capable of impartiality exist, few - if any - of these appear likely to be
nominated to the Chambers, and those few who are also likely to be appointed may
be unable to act accordingly to their consciences," stated CHRAC in letter to
the UN Secretary-General in September last year, and reiterated at a press
conference April 25.
While the UN has already received 400 applications
for international judges, there is no indication from the government that a
similar application process may take place in Cambodia, according to
"How the SCM will choose the judges is a very big question," he
said. "We would like to see and comment on the process - not to interfere - but
to disseminate [information] to the people to show the process is
Members of the SCM were unavailable to comment on the criteria for
the selection of judges and prosecutors of the KR tribunal.
Extraordinary Chambers will operate within the guidelines of Cambodian civil
law, which is based on the legal system used by the French. Three Cambodian and
two international judges will preside over the Trial Court chamber, and four
Cambodian and three international judges will hear any appeals that reach the
Supreme Court chamber. In addition, two co-investigative judges - one Cambodian
and one international - will collect evidence once the two co-prosecutors have
brought charges against the accused.
The same two co-investigative
judges, with the help of assistants, will be responsible for collecting evidence
against all of the accused Khmer Rouge leaders, expected by the UN to be between
five and 10 people.
The UN estimates that the investigation process will
take between 18 months and two years.
Under the proposed schedule set
out by the UN Secretary General in an October 2004 report on the tribunal, the
court proceedings should begin around November 2006
The tribunal budget
of $56.3 million is for a three-year period.