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.”

News
people
Sport
FootballGerman sparks three goals in four minutes at favourite No 10 role
News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Sport
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
athletics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
Radamel Falcao was forced to withdraw from the World Cup after undergoing surgery
premier leagueExclusive: Reds have agreement with Monaco
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Arts and Entertainment
Gregory Porter learnt about his father’s voice at his funeral
music
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Life and Style
Children at the Leytonstone branch of the Homeless Children's Aid and Adoption Society tuck into their harvest festival gifts, in October 1936
food + drinkThe harvest festival is back, but forget cans of tuna and packets of instant mash
Sport
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
New Articles
i100
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Volunteer Trustee opportunities now available at The Society for Experimental Biology

Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Volunteer your expertise as Tr...

Early Years Educator

£68 - £73 per day + Competitive rates of pay based on experience: Randstad Edu...

Nursery Nurse

£69 - £73 per day + Competitive London rates of pay: Randstad Education Group:...

Primary KS1 NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam