Khmer Rouge trial rocked by second resignation

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 blocked by his Cambodian counterpart.

“Judge Laurent Kasper-Ansermet considers that the present circumstances no longer allow him to properly and freely perform his duties,” a statement released by the court 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 UN 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.

“The situation is completely blocked,” Kasper-Ansermet said after announcing his resignation.

In the statement, he added that “You Bunleng’s active opposition to investigations into cases 003 and 004 has led to a dysfunctional situation”.

Political meddling
Kasper-Ansermet will stay in his role until May 4. It is unclear whether the UN has a list of judges ready to replace him.

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 — blamed for the deaths of up to two million people — beyond the current second trial.

The tribunal has so far completed just one trial, sentencing former prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Duch, to life in jail on appeal last month for overseeing the deaths of some 15 000 people at a torture prison.

Duch told the court on Monday that he would help to discover “the truth” in an ongoing second trial against the regime’s three most senior surviving leaders.

“I am ready to cooperate with the court,” said the 69-year-old, clad in the country’s standard blue prison uniform, when asked if he understood he was there to provide “information concerning the truth” about the brutal regime.

War crimes
His one-time superiors “Brother Number Two” Nuon Chea, ex-foreign minister Ieng Sary and former head of state Khieu Samphan deny charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in what is the court’s second trial.

The court’s potential third and fourth cases were widely expected to be dismissed in the face of government objections, though observers had hoped Kasper-Ansermet would bring new life into the moribund cases.

You Bunleng has repeatedly stated that Kasper-Ansermet’s actions are not legally valid because he is not officially accredited.

The Cambodian judge came under fire last year for closing the probe into the third case without quizzing the suspects or visiting the crime scenes.

Cambodia said earlier this year it objected to the Swiss because he had used micro blogging site Twitter to draw attention to the controversy surrounding the cases.

Observers have however voiced suspicions that the government may have used the spat as an excuse to keep stalling on the investigations. — AFP

PW Botha wagged his finger and banned us in 1988 but we stood firm. We built a reputation for fearless journalism, then, and now. Through these last 35 years, the Mail & Guardian has always been on the right side of history.

These days, we are on the trail of the merry band of corporates and politicians robbing South Africa of its own potential.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.

Advertisting

South Africa has been junked

Treasury says the credit ratings downgrade “could not have come at a worse time”, as country enters a 21-day Covid-19 lockdown with little money saved up

Mail & Guardian needs your help

Our job is to help give you the information we all need to participate in building this country, while holding those in power to account. But now the power to help us keep doing that is in your hands

Press Releases

The online value of executive education in a Covid-19 world

Executive education courses further develop the skills of leaders in the workplace

Sisa Ntshona urges everyone to stay home, and consider travelling later

Sisa Ntshona has urged everyone to limit their movements in line with government’s request

SAB Zenzele’s special AGM postponed until further notice

An arrangement has been announced for shareholders and retailers to receive a 77.5% cash payout

20th Edition of the National Teaching Awards

Teachers are seldom recognised but they are indispensable to the country's education system

Awards affirm the vital work that teachers do

Government is committed to empowering South Africa’s teachers with skills, knowledge and techniques for a changing world

SAB Zenzele special AGM rescheduled to March 25 2020

New voting arrangements are being made to safeguard the health of shareholders

Dimension Data launches Saturday School in PE

The Gauteng Saturday School has produced a number of success stories