Judge quits Cambodia genocide tribunal
The Khmer Rouge genocide tribunal was plunged into turmoil yesterday after one of its investigating judges resigned, claiming the government of Cambodia was trying to interfere with the proceedings of the court.
Judge Siegfried Blunk said he was stepping down after several Cambodian ministers suggested it was up to the country to decide which defendants were brought before the court and not the judges. He said it was impossible for him to continue in the role without both his integrity and that of the court being questioned.
“His ability to withstand such pressure by government officials and to perform his duties independently could always be called in doubt,” said a statement issued by the UN-sponsored court.
Precisely who should stand trial for the deaths of up to 1.7m people during the Khmer Rouge’s 1975 to 1979 rule has long been controversial. When Prime Minister Hun Sen agreed for the tribunal to be established – a process that took a decade –he only supported the trial of five former senior members of the Khmer Rouge: Comrade Duch, or Kaing Guek Eav, head of Tuol Sleng torture camp who was sentenced last year to 19 years in jail; Khieu Samphan, the former head of state; Ieng Sary, the foreign minister; his wife Ieng Thirith, the minister for social affairs; and Nuon Chea, the prime minister.
Over the years, campaigners, lawyers and scholars have suggested there was sufficient evidence to try other individuals and two additional cases – known as cases 003 and 004 - were established for judges to examine. It is widely assumed that Meas Muth, a former commander of the Khmer Rouge navy, accused with the kidnap and murder of foreign tourists, air force commander Sou Met, and three regional officials, Aom An, Yim Tith, and Im Chem were among the individuals.
But earlier this year, Mr Blunk, who is German, and his fellow investigating judge drew widespread criticism when they announced their investigation into case 003 had been concluded, even though they had spoken to just a handful of witnesses and had not even interviewed the suspects themselves.
Last week, the campaign group Human Rights Watch, called for the resignation of Mr Blunk and his Cambodian colleague, You Bunleng, saying they had “egregiously violated their legal and judicial duties”.
“The investigating judges concluded their investigation into case 003 without notifying the suspects, interviewing key witnesses, or conducting crime site investigations,” said Brad Adams, of HRW. “This would be shocking for an ordinary crime, but it’s unbelievable when it involves some of the 20th century’s worst atrocities. The Cambodian people have no hope of seeing justice for mass murder as long as these judges are involved.”
Hun Sen, himself a former Khmer Rouge commander who eventually fled the country, has always claimed additional trials could damage the fabric of Cambodia. Many believe he is trying to protect senior figures within the political establishment who are themselves former members of the Maoist-inspired rebel group that seized power in Cambodia in 1975, a move that led to the murder and death of up to 1.7m people.
Activists and observers believe it is increasingly unlikely that cases 003 and 004 will ever proceed. In a statement, Ou Virak of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights, said: “The…charade must end. Judge Blunk’s resignation ends any doubt that the [Cambodian government is] interfering. If the [tribunal’s] door is shut without a full and frank investigation into cases 003 and 004, the UN will have failed the victims of the Khmer Rouge. ”
Cambodia’s minister for information, Khieu Kanharith, last night told the Agence France-Presse that the government had not interfered with the court but that Mr Blunk had failed to cooperate with his colleagues: “Now we leave the issue to the court to decide in accordance with the agreement between Cambodian government and the UN,” he said.
In a statement, Martin Nesirky, a spokesman for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, said it was expected that a reserve judge, Laurent Kasper-Ansermet, would fill Mr Blunk’s post soon. He added: “The UN has consistently emphasised that the [tribunal] must be permitted to proceed with its work without interference from any entity, including the Royal Government of Cambodia, donor States or civil society.”
Emergency call 'started off dumb, but got pretty serious'
Britain First criticised for using actress's memory to draw attention to their 'hate-filled home page'
Animal welfare charities have urged the boy band to cut the scenes
Thought you'd seen it all after the Jeremy Paxman interview?
Greatest mystery about the hit BBC1 show is how it continues to be made at all, writes Grace Dent
"History is violent," says the US Army tank commander Don "Wardaddy" Collier
Argentinian scored 'rabona' wonder goal for Tottenham in Europa League – see it here
- 1 This 'woman calls police to order pizza' story isn't going where you're expecting
- 2 Watch what happened when food critics were unknowingly served McDonald's
- 3 Jimmy Carr's controversial Oscar Pistorius joke goes a bit too far at the Q Awards
- 4 Ottawa shootings: Bruce MacKinnon's cartoon is the perfect tribute to soldier Nathan Cirillo
- 5 Of course, teenage girls need role models – but not like beauty vlogger Zoella
Isis releases first video showing the stoning of woman accused of committing adultery as her father shouts 'don't call me Dad'
This 'woman calls police to order pizza' story isn't going where you're expecting
FCKH8: YouTube reinstates provocative anti-sexism video showing young girls swearing
Diwali: What is the festival of lights – and how is it celebrated around the world?
Jimmy Carr's controversial Oscar Pistorius joke goes a bit too far at the Q Awards
Of course, teenage girls need role models – but not like beauty vlogger Zoella
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Support for EU membership 'at highest level since 1991' with most Brits wanting to stay 'in'
Thousands with degenerative conditions classified as 'fit to work in future' – despite no possibility of improvement
Residents should throw a street party and mix with immigrant neighbours, councils told
Attacks on 'Ukip Calypso' show how skewed people’s priorities are
£350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Reading are...
£10 per hour: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you an experienced note taker...
£4800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: A full time...
£24000 - £28000 per annum + bonus & benefits: Ashdown Group: IT Business Syste...