UN Fails to Address Crisis of Credibility Facing Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge Tribunal

NEW YORK—The Open Society Justice Initiative notes with dismay the recent statement by the spokesperson of Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations in New York, which failed to address the crisis of credibility facing the UN-backed Khmer Rouge tribunal in Cambodia.

In the remarks, made in New York on Tuesday, June 14,the spokesperson dismissed what he described as “media speculation” that the UN has instructed the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia to dismiss charges against former Khmer Rouge officials who are the focus of its third potential case (Case 003).

However, the statement failed to respond to the serious questions of judicial independence, misconduct and competence, at the tribunal raised by the premature conclusion on April 29, 2011, of the investigation into Case 003, and the refusal of the tribunal’s two co-investigating judges to pursue further inquiries as requested by the international co-prosecutor.

Instead, the UN argued that the principle of judicial independence precludes it making any comment on the operations of the court, or the conduct of its judges.

James A Goldston, executive director of the Open Society Justice Initiative, said the position ignores that well-founded allegations of judicial impropriety can and should be subjected to impartial review without undermining independence.

“The UN is failing to address the egregious nature of the allegations made in the Justice Initiative’s report concerning judicial misconduct, breach of legal and ethical duties, and incompetence,” he said.  

“The UN has available to it the power and the mechanisms to conduct further inquiries, and it should do so,” he added.

The Justice Initiative report, Latest Developments in the Extraordinary Chambers of the Courts of Cambodia: June 2011, calls on the Secretary-General, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and other appropriate UN officials to initiate a range of investigative acts.