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Tribunal Judge’s Appointment Stalled With Government

The newly appointed judge of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), Mr. Siegfried Blunk from Germany, attends the official sworn-in ceremony at a hotel in Phnom Penh September 5, 2008. But Siegfried Blunk resigned in October 2011, sa

The Cambodian government has so far not appointed a new international prosecutor to the UN-backed Khmer Rouge tribunal, following the resignation of a German judge in October.

Court officials and monitors say the delay is likely to impact the ongoing investigations of two contentious cases at the court.

Laurent Kasper-Ansermet was nominated for the position by the UN in October, but he has not been officially approved by the Supreme Council of Magistracy.

Long Panhavuth, a court monitor for the Cambodian Justice Initiative, said the delay casts further doubts on the government’s will to see cases 003 and 004, which would require five more indictments at the court, move forward.

“We are awaiting the decision by the Supreme Council of Magistracy,” tribunal spokesman Lars Olsen said Thursday. The holdup “may cause a delay” in the cases, he said.

The court and the government have come under increasing criticism for the handling of cases 003 and 004, which accuse five more Khmer Rouge leaders of atrocity crimes.

Prime Minister Hun Sen and other senior officials have repeatedly objected to the cases, saying more arrests could destabilize parts of the country where the Khmer Rouge folded into the government in the late 1990s.

However, victims of the regime and observers at the court say the treatment of the two cases has hurt the tribunal’s legacy as a body that was meant to provide a model of justice following one of the worst atrocities of the 20th Century.

The former investigating judge, Siegfried Blunk, resigned in October, saying the public objections by Hun Sen and others to the two cases made his job impossible.

Top officials at the Supreme Council of Magistracy said they were not aware of the status of Laurent Kasper-Ansermet’s appointment, and You Bunleng, the tribunal’s Cambodian investigating judge, who is also a member of the council, could not be reached for comment.

“The delay will provide two impacts,” Long Panhavuth said. “First, it creates doubt about political will, and second, it will delay investigations of cases 003 and 004.”

Officials for the French, Japanese and US embassies in Phnom Penh declined to comment directly on the delay.