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Report Warns of Political Interference at Tribunal

Political interference at the Khmer Rouge tribunal is undermining its credibility, a monitoring group for the UN-backed court says in a November report.

The Open Society Justice Initiative says in its latest report that the refusal of six government officials to appear to witness summonses in an upcoming trial for Khmer Rouge, is compromising the international standards of the tribunal.

Confidential sources within the tribunal also told the group they would not likely be allowed by the government to cooperate with prosecutors and investigators as the tribunal prepares to try more members of the regime, next year, according to the report.

Meanwhile, the group says, the government has failed to act on nominations for an international prosecutor to replace Robert Petit, who left in September.

“Political interference at the ECCC poses a serious challenge to both the credibility of the court and its ability to meet international fair trial standards,” the report says, referring to the tribunal by its official initials, for the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia.

James Goldston, executive director of OSJI, told VOA Khmer Tuesday that Cambodia, the UN and donors needed to address the threat of political interference in the tribunal’s proceedings.

“There have been indications that the future investigation may not receive full cooperation from the Cambodian authorities,” he said by phone from New York. “That, of course, would be a very bad signal and a very bad indication of the court’s independence.”

He called it “crucial” that “all persons who are properly requested to appear before the investigative authority, prosecution, judges, do so, and that the court is capable and able to pursue its investigation and prosecution to the full extent, where the evidence leads,” he said.

Tribunal officials declined to comment on the report, which they had not yet read.

Phay Siphan, a spokesman for the Council of Ministers, denied the conclusions in the report.

The six government officials who have so far refused to appear as witnesses under summons did so to ensure fairness at the tribunal, as they had once fought against the Khmer Rouge, he said.