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Surprise Resignation of Judge Adds to Tribunal Woes

Former international co-investigating Judge Laurent Kasper-Ansermet.
Former international co-investigating Judge Laurent Kasper-Ansermet.

The Swiss judge nominated to replace a tribunal investigating judge at the UN-backed court resigned unexpectedly this week, casting more doubt on the court’s ability to pursue more cases against aging Khmer Rouge leaders.

The departure of Laurent Kasper-Ansermet, who said in a lengthy open letter he had been obstructed from fulfilling his duties, has also put renewed scrutiny on the government for interference with the court.

“It’s deeply troubling that he has documented so many obstacles to his work,” said Clair Duffy, who monitors the court for the US-based Open Society Justice Initiative.

The judge’s resignation increases concern that two additional cases before the court that would indict five more suspects will not move forward.

Kasper-Ansermet’s resignation follows that of his predecessor, Siegfried Blunk, who said last year public governmental opposition to two cases before his office made it impossible for him to do his job.

Government officials have maintained there is no interference between the administration of Prime Minister Hun Sen, who opposes more indictments, and the court, which is mandated to try leaders of the Khmer Rouge for some of the worst atrocities of the 20th Century.

In a 14-page departure memo, Kasper-Ansermet said Cambodian staff followed the instructions of his Cambodian counterpart, You Bunleng, only and that he was not allowed to perform critical functions of his office.

Tribunal spokesman Neth Pheaktra said there was “no discrimination” at the court and that any officials named in the memo would respond “at an appropriate time.”

A second tribunal spokesman, Lars Olsen, said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has the authority to appoint a replacement.

However, OSJI’s Duffy said the UN should not rush its decision.