I follow proceedings in the Khmer Rouge tribunal closely and observe its workings patiently from the sidelines.
I do this with a feeling of hope, because this United Nations-backed court was initiated with two core objectives: to put leaders of the Khmer Rouge regime on trial and find justice for their victims; and to be a model for Cambodia’s justice system, which is often viewed – by local people and the international community alike – as weak and corrupt.
Recently, I have become very annoyed and disappointed with this hybrid court, because it is seen as being influenced by politics and the local justice system, rather than becoming a role model.
Since it was established more than half a decade ago, the tribunal has done nothing to positively influence the local court system.
Instead, it seems to be adopting the bad habits of Cambodia’s courts, whose actions have been criticised by local and international legal activists (including the United Nations).
In its most recent crisis, this “model” court set a pretty bad example.
Following its warning to journalists who reported on the leaking of documents related to the contro-versial cases 003 and 004, the tribunal filed a complaint against the Voice of America Khmer Service because this highly professional media organisation had independently reported to its audience the leakage of documents pertaining to cases 003 and 004 at a time when the court appeared unwilling to proceed with those cases.
During a press conference in Bangkok, Thailand, one of the co-investigating judges again lambasted members of the media who are working conscientiously in their task of reporting the tribunal’s proceedings.
It seems to me the court’s working system is flawed, and this may explain how the documents came to be leaked.
These actions are unacceptable, and show the tribunal in a poor light. It also suggests to the public that the tribunal is being influenced by the local justice system, rather than the other way around.
As a beneficiary of this UN-backed tribunal, I want to see it working professionally and independently of politics, as well as serving as a shining model for the local court system.
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The views expressed above are solely the author’s and do not reflect any positions taken by The Phnom Penh Post.