K Rouge judge quits over row about new cases
PHNOM PENH CAMBODIA’S UN-backed war crimes court was rocked on Monday by the second resignation of an international judge in recent months amid a row over whether to pursue more former regime members.
Swiss co-investigating judge Laurent Kasper- Ansermet said that his authority to investigate possible third and fourth cases at the tribunal had been constantly thwarted by his Cambodian counterpart.
“The situation is completely blocked,” Kasper- Ansermet said.
In October, German judge Siegfried Blunk quit the court, blaming government interference in two potential new cases, in which five mid-level Khmer Rouge members face a string of allegations including mass killings and forced labour during the regime’s 1975-1979 reign of terror.
The United Nations named Kasper-Ansermet, the reserve judge, as Blunk’s replacement.
But Cambodia refused to recognise the appointment, prompting an unprecedented row and forcing the Swiss to work without the support of his Cambodian counterpart You Bunleng.
In a statement released by the court, Kasper- Ansermet said that “You Bunleng’s active opposition to investigations into cases 003 and 004 has led to a dysfunctional situation”.
The judge will stay in his role until May 4. It is unclear whether the UN has a replacement ready, but observers said any future judge would likely face similar difficulties.
“I’m surprised by the resignation but I’m not surprised at what has led to it,” said tribunal monitor Clair Duffy from the Open Society Justice Initiative.
“The UN and donors have to address the heart of the problem: that the Cambodian government is trying to control who this court investigates and prosecutes.” The court, set up to find justice for the deaths of up to two million people under the hardline communist Khmer Rouge regime, has for years been dogged by claims of political meddling.
The Cambodian government, which includes many former Khmer Rouge members, strongly opposes pursuing more suspects of the regime beyond the current second trial.