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UN Blasted for Failure to Address Tribunal Credibility

The Khmer Rouge Tribunal, ECCC.
The Khmer Rouge Tribunal, ECCC.

The UN came under renewed criticism on Thursday for its handling of a controversial case at the Khmer Rouge tribunal, while the court’s international prosecutor moved for even more investigation.

In a statement, the international court monitor Open Society Justice Initiative said the UN had failed to address major questions regarding the credibility of the court, after judges hastily concluded an investigation into two unnamed Khmer Rouge suspects.

OSJI said a statement from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued Wednesday “failed to respond to the serious questions of judicial independence, misconduct and competence of the investigation into case 003.”

Investigating judges at the UN-backed court have come under increased pressure in recent weeks over their handling of Case 003, which international prosecutors have said deserves indictments.

Also on Thursday, international prosecutor Andrew Cayley, who has been at odds with the investigating judges since April, issued a statement saying he would require them to add charges to their investigation of Case 004, another controversial case that could potentially mean more indictments by the court.

The Cambodian government publicly opposes the pursuit of both cases, for fear it could destabilize the country’s security situation by upsetting former Khmer Rouge.

However, court observers say the appearance of government interference in the work of the court is threatening to undermine its credibility.

The statement from Ban’s office rejected speculation that Case 003 could be dropped or that the UN was instructing its investigating judge, Siegfried Blunk, to do so.

But OSJI said the UN statement had “failed also to respond to the refusal of the tribunal’s two co-investigating judges to pursue further inquiries as requested by the international co-prosecutor.”

Tribunal spokesman Dim Sovannarom declined to comment on Thursday, and there was no immediate response from the investigating judges to Cayley’s submission statement.

In that statement, he said he is now requesting the judges to add charges to Case 004, for three Khmer Rouge leaders, to include crimes committed against the Khmer Krom.

He is also requesting the judges to “notify the public and potential civil parties of the specific crime sites” included in his supplementary submission.

Dim Sovannarom said the prosecutor’s submission was according to tribunal regulations.

Court observers say the statement from OSJI and the submission of Cayley do not necessarily signal a problem at the court, but rather a push by some to move the court forward.

“This controversy comes because we are concerned about justice in the future for Cambodia and for victims,” said Chhang Youk, director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia.

Latt Ky, a tribunal monitor for the rights group Adhoc, said he supported the OSJI statement and the new submission from Cayley because they both serve to keep the court’s work in the public eye.