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UN Investigating Tribunal Judge Approved by Cambodia

Cambodia has approved two UN-appointed judges to the Khmer Rouge tribunal, including a replacement investigating judge, a position under intense pressure and scrutiny at the heart of allegations of political interference in the court’s work, sources confirmed Monday.

Sources close to the tribunal said an American judge named Mark Harmon, a former prosecutor for the international war crimes tribunal in Yugoslavia, has been approved as investigating judge on the international side of the hybrid court. Caroline Charpentier, a French judge who served at the international criminal court for Kosovo, will be the reserve investigating judge, according to sources who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the appointments.

Those positions have been vacated multiple times by judges who said they could not do their jobs due to political interference or obstruction on the part of their Cambodian counterparts. Most pressing for the office of investigating judges are cases 003 and 004, which would require further indictments of an already financially beleaguered court and which are opposed by Prime Minister Hun Sen and other senior government officials.

Sources close to the court say both judges have been approved by the Supreme Council of Magistracy and signed off on by the king, a requirement in Cambodia’s constitutional monarchy.

A UN official confirmed that the international body had submitted two names to the Cambodian government but could not confirm whether they were approved.

James Goldston, executive director of the US-based Open Society Justice Initiative, which monitors the tribunal, said the new judges will face old challenges at the court and “increasing difficulties” in pursuing cases 003 and 004.

Former investigating judge Siegfried Blunk resigned from that position in October 2011, claiming public objections to those two cases by top officials made it impossible to do his job. His replacement, Laurent Kasper-Ansermet, resigned in May, claiming he had been prevented from his duties by obstructions within the Cambodian office of investigating judges.