A Change of Guard

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Monday, 3 October 2011

HRW urges KRouge judges to quit over failings

Dr. You Bunleng (L) and Herr Doktor Siegfried Blunk (R).

The New Age

South Africa
October 3, 2011

(AFP) - Judges investigating two new Khmer Rouge cases at Cambodia's UN-backed war crimes tribunal have failed in their duties and should resign, a leading rights group said on Monday.

"The Cambodian people have no hope of seeing justice for mass murder as long as these judges are involved," Human Rights Watch (HRW) Asia director Brad Adams said, blaming political interference for an insufficient investigation.

New York-based HRW said the two judges, Cambodia's You Bunleng and Germany's Siegfried Blunk "have failed to conduct genuine, impartial and effective investigations" into alleged crimes by five ex-Khmer Rouge members.

"It appears likely that both cases will be dropped without a serious investigation having taken place," it added.

A spokesman for the UN-backed tribunal, Lars Olsen, dismissed HRW's allegations. "The co-investigating judges will continue to perform their duties independently," he told AFP.

In its landmark first trial, the tribunal last year sentenced Kaing Guek Eav, a former prison chief under the brutal 1975-1979 regime, to 30 years in jail for overseeing the deaths of 15,000 people.

A second trial involving the regime's four most senior surviving leaders is under way and expected to start hearing testimony before the end of the year.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen himself a former Khmer Rouge cadre -- has repeatedly voiced opposition to the court's third and fourth cases, even saying that prosecutions beyond the current second trial were "not allowed".

The two judges have faced fierce criticism from observers since they said in April they had concluded investigations into the third case without quizzing the two suspects, thought to be mid-level Khmer Rouge commanders.

The judges also raised eyebrows in August when they said they had "serious doubts" about whether the three suspects in case four accused of mass killings and forced labour fell under the court's jurisdiction.

You Bunleng have acted as the Cambodian investigative judge on all four of the tribunal's cases while Blunk was brought in for cases three and four after Frenchman Marcel Lemonde resigned to focus on other projects. Different judges oversee the actual trial.

The court is charged with trying senior Khmer Rouge leaders and those most responsible for crimes committed by the regime, which wiped out up to two million people through starvation, overwork and execution. -AFP

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