Cambodian Government Must Confirm New Judge Now

NEW YORK—The Open Society Justice Initiative is deeply concerned over the Royal Cambodian Government’s failure to confirm the appointment of the international co-investigating judge at the Khmer Rouge tribunal in Cambodia, almost three months after the post was left vacant by the resignation of Judge Siegfried Blunk.

The failure to ensure the prompt appointment of the current Reserve Co-Investigating Judge, Laurent Kasper-Ansermet (Switzerland), has created yet another impasse in the progress of judicial investigations into five suspects (known as Cases 003 and 004) alleged to have committed an array of international crimes during the Khmer Rouge’s 1975-79 reign of terror.

Senior Cambodian government officials have repeatedly said that they do not want those two cases to be brought to trial.

On Monday January 9th in Phnom Penh, Judge Kasper-Ansermet issued a public statement expressing his concern over the failure of his national counterpart, Judge You Bunleng, to release information about the progress of Cases 003/004 into the public domain. Judge You Bunleng responded that he will not cooperate with Judge Kasper-Ansermet, or recognize any action taken by him, unless and until he is officially appointed.

Individual public statements along a similar vein were issued by both judges in December shortly after Judge Kasper-Ansermet arrived in Phnom Penh to take office, following the sudden resignation of Judge Blunk. 

The Open Society Justice Initiative urges the Cambodian government to endorse Judge Kasper-Ansermet’s appointment immediately. It also urges the UN and the court’s donors to publicly insist on the immediate endorsement of Judge Kasper-Ansermet as full co-investigating judge.

James A. Goldston, executive director of the Open Society Justice Initiative, said:

“Judge Kasper-Ansermet’s status must be made clear and unequivocal. He must be afforded access to every tool to which his appointment entitles him, in order to move forward in the Case 003 and 004 judicial investigations.”

Under its agreement with the United Nations that established the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, the Royal Government of Cambodia has no discretion in relation to the appointment of Judge Kasper-Ansermet. The agreement  mandates that the person appointed to fill Judge Blunk’s position must be Judge Laurent Kasper-Ansermet (the “Reserve Co-Investigating Judge”).

Nonetheless, and contrary to previous practice, the Cambodian government has continued to stall on providing formal approval, effectively leaving the judicial investigations in a state of limbo. The government's failure to act is prolonging the crisis of credibility facing the court, as it pursues the prosecution of three former senior leaders of the Khmer Rouge regime in Case 002.