UN Rejects Cambodian Move to Block Tribunal Judge

Posted January 25th, 2012 at 3:30 pm (UTC-5)
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The United Nations says a Swiss jurist will soon begin work as an investigating magistrate at the special tribunal probing Khmer Rouge war crimes despite the Cambodian government's refusal to approve his appointment to the court.

U.N. spokesman David Scheffer, speaking Wednesday, said Cambodia has no legal authority to block Swiss Judge Laurent Kasper-Ansermet from the tribunal post. Scheffer said the appointee will look into two politically charged cases linked to the deadly 1975-1979 Khmer Rouge rule.

“The view of the United Nations is indeed that the failure to appoint Mr. Kasper Ansermet is the breach of an agreement between the United Nations and the Cambodian government that governs the operation of this court; recognizing that we believe in our interpretation of the agreement namely, that regardless of that breach, the judge has full authority to operate as the international investigating judge of the Extraordinary Chamber in the Courts of Cambodia.”

Cambodia said last week it had decided not to approve the appointment to the court of Kasper-Ansermet, who was named to fill a vacancy created when German judge Siegfried Blunt resigned late last year.

Clair Duffy, an international law expert who monitors the tribunal for the Open Society Justice Initiative, told VOA's Khmer service it is not yet clear what will happen when Kasper-Ansermet attempts to begin his work.

“I think the UN position on that is clear that he doesn't actually require the appointment by the Supreme Council of Magistracy to continue on with his work. So he is in office and everyone is now going to wait to see to what extent he can fulfill his obligation under these circumstances.”

The tribunal, jointly created by the Cambodian government and the United Nations, has convicted a notorious Khmer Rouge prison warden and is currently hearing a second case against the top three surviving Khmer Rouge leaders.

The fate, however, of two additional cases has been in doubt since a prosecutor last year accused Blunt and his Cambodian co-investigating judge of prematurely closing their probe into one of the cases.

Several international staff members quit the tribunal to protest the handling of the case and Blunt himself quit, complaining of interference from the government of Prime Minister Hun Sen.

The Cambodian government has made clear that it opposes the cases going forward, saying any further prosecutions could divide Cambodian society.