Home > Khmer Rouge, Local News > Ban Ki-Moon hits back at tribunal criticism

Ban Ki-Moon hits back at tribunal criticism

The office of United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon has defended
the embattled investigating judges at the Khmer Rouge tribunal in a
statement that drew criticism from local observers and lawyers at the
court.

The judges have come under fire in recent weeks from
victims, civil society groups and even their own staff for their
apparent failure to investigate the tribunal’s third case properly. The
likely dismissal of the case reflects the viewpoint of the Cambodian
government, which opposes prosecutions beyond the upcoming Case 002,
leading many to charge that Case 003 has been sabotaged for political
expediency.

In a statement released in New York on Tuesday, Ban’s
office rejected “media speculation” that the UN had directed the judges
to shutter Case 003 and denied that any political interference had
occurred in the case. A “closing order” – indictments or dismissals in
the case – will be available to public scrutiny at a later date, the
statement added.

“The judges and prosecutors at the Extraordinary
Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) must be allowed to function
free from external interference by the Royal Government of Cambodia, the
United Nations, donor States and civil society,” the statement read,
adding: “Speculating on the content of the Closing Order at this stage
does not assist the independent judicial process.”

However, local
observers said the statement was in fact cause for greater concern
about the tribunal, as the UN refused to acknowledge the abundance of
evidence that the Case 003 investigation has been mismanaged.

Co-investigating
judges Siegfried Blunk of Germany and You Bunleng of Cambodia announced
the conclusion of their Case 003 investigation in April, though without
taking a number of seemingly basic steps including the questioning of
the suspects involved and the examination of a number of alleged crime
sites.

Staff from the judges’ office have since begun resigning
in protest; in a resignation letter to Blunk last month, noted Khmer
Rouge-era historian Stephen Heder, formerly a consultant to the
investigating judges, spoke of the “toxic atmosphere” within their
office, saying it had become “professionally dysfunctional”. He added
that the judges had closed Case 003 “effectively without investigating
it”.

The judges last week rejected a series of requests from
international co-prosecutor Andrew Cayley calling for them to
investigate the case further, a decision Cayley has appealed.

In
the statement Tuesday, Ban’s office cited the confidentiality of the
investigation and said the investigating judges “are not under an
obligation to provide reasons for their actions at this stage of the
investigation in Case 003”.

But Anne Heindel, a legal adviser at
the Documentation Centre of Cambodia, called this an erroneous reading
of court rules and said the UN was “hiding behind a cloak of
confidentiality”.

“As an institution, the UN is trying to protect
the integrity of the court by denying that there are any problems, and
it’s too late for that,” she said. “They need to acknowledge that action
needs to be taken to save this investigation or it could undermine the
entire work of the court.”

Clair Duffy, a trial monitor with the
Open Society Justice Initiative, said UN officials were “ignoring all of
the evidence they now have before them, including from people inside
the court with knowledge of what’s going on”.

“To pretend that
this is a matter of speculation at this point ignores the wealth of
available evidence that no serious investigative action was ever
undertaken in relation to the 003 suspects,” she said.

The
suspects in Case 003 remain officially confidential, though court
documents reveal them as former KR navy commander Meas Mut and air force
commander Sou Met.

Lawyers for former Khmer Rouge Brother No 2
Nuon Chea, set to stand trial later this month in the court’s second
case, also took issue with the UN statement, which referred to their
client as one of “the four remaining leaders of the Khmer Rouge”.

This
statement, the defence team said, presupposes both Nuon Chea’s guilt
and the fact that he and the other Case 002 suspects “are the only
‘leaders’ of the Khmer Rouge still alive”.

Whether the Case 003
suspects also fall into this category “is a matter which is currently
the subject of litigation before the ECCC”, the defence team said.

Categories: Khmer Rouge, Local News
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