A Change of Guard

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Tuesday, 11 October 2011

‘Urgent’ efforts to replace departing judge

Tuesday, 11 October 2011
Bridget Di Certo
Phnom Penh Post
Former co-investigating judge Siegfried Blunk, who resigned from his post on Sunday, at a Khmer Rouge tribunal hearing in August. Photo by: HENG CHIVOAN

THE United Nations says it is “working urgently” to replace departing international Co-Investigating Judge Siegfried Blunk in order to avoid any disruption to investigations at the Khmer Rouge tribunal.

Laurent Kasper-Asnermet, a reserve judge at the tribunal, is slated to replace Blunk imminently “so that the important work of the ECCC is not disrupted”, Office of the Secretary-General Martin Nesirky said by email.

Nesirky also confirmed UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon had received Blunk’s resignation and “thanks him for his service”.

Although his resignation was tendered on Sunday, Blunk still has a 60-day notice period to work through, the tribunal’s legal affairs officer Lars Olsen said yesterday, adding that Blunk would continue to work until he was replaced.

Blunk’s resignation comes amid a flurry of criticism after investigations into Case 003 were closed in April this year without judges interviewing the suspects or conducting crime site visits.

However, this is not the first time a judge has walked away from the investigating office, which has been mired in controversy over upcoming cases 003 and 004.

In 2010, Blunk, who was then a reserve judge, replaced French judge Marcel Lemonde – who stepped down from his role as international investigator at the tribunal amid allegedly prickly relations with his Cambodian counterpart You Bunleng.

Lemonde and You Bunleng registered a disagreement in June 2010 over the “timing of investigations” into cases 003 and 004. Lemonde continued his investigations into the cases independently of You Bunleng, but stepped down from his post in November 2010 to be replaced by Blunk.

The UN’s intended replacement for Blunk, Kasper-Ansermet, is a Swiss national who was appointed as a reserve investigating judge in December 2010. Efforts to ensure Kasper-Ansermet is appointed as soon as possible would likely minimise any disruption to ongoing investigations into Case 004.

“When Blunk assumed office (after Lemonde) he started working on the case files as they were, including the limited work of Lemonde,” Olsen said yesterday.

“The incoming investigating judge will make their own decisions on how to proceed with the case files in concert with his national counterpart.”

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