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UN Secretary General Moves To Ease Tribunal Tension

.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, center, tours the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, formerly the Khmer Rouge regime's notorious S-21 prison in Phnom Penh (file photo).

The office UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon sought to ease increasing tensions within the Khmer Rouge tribunal on Wednesday, rejecting media reports that a controversial third case will be dropped.

The UN-backed court’s investigating judges have come under fire in recent weeks after they made a preliminary conclusion to Case 003, for two unnamed Khmer Rouge suspects.

Ban said through a spokesman on Wednesday that the conclusion had only been a procedural step and was not a signal the case—which Prime Minister Hun Sen strongly opposes—would be ignored.

However, the investigating judges have already seen a staff exodus, and their office was called “toxic” by a leading consultant for investigation, especially after they failed to interview the two chief suspects in the case.

“The co-investigating judges must ultimately issue a closing order in case 003 which, in relation to each suspect, either sends him or her to trial, or dismissed the case against him or her,” according to Ban’s statement.

Claire Duffy, a court monitor for the independent Open Society Justice Initiative, said while the statement was “technically” true, it was also a defense of the UN’s court operations.

“If you have just kept up to date with all the developments that have been happening, it’s clear that the judges intend to dismiss the case,” she said.

The judges “haven’t even interviewed” the suspects or assigned them counsel, she said, making indictments very unlikely.

Ban’s statement said the jurists for the tribunal “must be allowed to function free from external interference by the royal government, by the UN, donors states and by civil society.”