The Royal Government of Cambodia was told to refrain from interfering in the work of the Khmer Rouge tribunal during a meeting yesterday between Deputy Prime Minister Sok An and the UN’s most senior legal counsel.
UN Under-Secretary General for Legal Affairs Patricia O’Brien, in Phnom Penh to address concerns of political interference at the tribunal, has unequivocally told the government to stop making statements opposing the progress of the tribunal’s controversial cases 003 and 004.
“The legal counsel strongly urged the Royal Government of Cambodia … to refrain from interfering in any way whatsoever with the judicial process,” a statement released by O’Brien late last night said.
O’Brien’s visit follows the resignat-ion of Siegfried Blunk, who said he had quit his post as co-investigating judge because of repeated statements from senior government officials in opposition to cases 003 and 004.
004. The crisis of credibility at the court is a quagmire O’Brien was keenly aware of on coming to the Kingdom, and has referred to in her limited public statements.
Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Sipahn said the government was “offended” by UN allegations of interference in the work of the tribunal.
“Cases 003 and 004 are going on; how can they think we are interfering?” Phay Siphan told the Post yesterday.
“We do not interfere – but there is freedom of expression,” he said. “You cannot tell anyone to stop saying anything.”
Sok An also released a statement about his meeting with O’Brien late last night.
Sok An emphasised the importance of Case 002, and the judgment in Case 001, which is yet to be delivered, and clearly omitted any reference to cases 003 or 004.
“The deputy prime minister emphasised the need for decis-ion-makers on both sides to discharge their responsibilities without allowing themselves to be distracted by intense speculation, pressure and interference from the media and other outside parties,” Sok An said.
The government has repeatedly pointed at rights groups and the media as campaigning against Blunk and pressuring him to resign.
“Now there will have to be an appointment of a new judge,” Phay Siphan said.
He said Sok An and O’Brien had also discussed candidates to replace UN special expert Clint Williamson, who offic-ially finished his duties at the end of last month.
UN spokesman Lars Olsen confirmed the UN was working towards a replacement for Will-iamson at the court, and had been doing so for a while.
“The legal counsel brought up the need to fill the vacancy of the special expert during her meeting with the deputy prime minister,” Olsen told the Post.
“The UN believes the special expert serves an important function at the court.”