Khmer Rouge Court: UN Must Act to Restore Credibility

PHNOM PENH—The Open Society Justice Initiative says the United Nations must move swiftly to set up an independent inquiry into allegations of judicial misconduct at Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge court, if it hopes to “salvage the reputation” of the tribunal as “a credible judicial institution.”

In its latest update on events at the court, the Justice Initiative argues that “swift action” is needed to stem a loss of confidence in the court, as it prepares to begin hearing evidence in the trial of the four surviving top Khmer Rouge leaders.

The 22 page report, Recent Developments at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia: November 2011, sets out the actions that have given rise to the allegations of misconduct, centered around the failure of co-investigating judges Siegfried Blunk and You Bunleng to properly investigate the cases of five former Khmer Rouge figures in the tribunal’s Cases 003 and 004.

It states: “A review of the facts demonstrates that the co-investigating judges persistently thwarted the investigative processes in Cases 003/004, undermined the court’s legitimacy and credibility, affronted the rights of victims and suspects, shrouded their actions in secrecy, and punished those seeking to expose them.”

It argues that the resignation in October of Judge Blunk “has not reduced the pressing need for an independent inquiry into allegations of judicial misconduct, incompetence, and lack of judicial independence.”

The tribunal, which uses both local and international judges and staff, was set up with support from the UN and the international community to try senior leaders and those most responsible for international crimes in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge government between April 1975 and January 1979.

The Open Society Justice Initiative has maintained a presence in Phnom Penh to monitor the court since before it began proceedings in 2007.