A Change of Guard

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Thursday, 29 March 2012

‘Security risks’ alleged at KRT [Did Judge Kasper-Ansermet receive death threat?]

Phnom Penh Post
Tuesday, 27 March 2012

National co-investigating judge You Bunleng yesterday said he “welcomed” the resignation of his international counterpart and accused the Swiss judge of misconduct and threatening staff at the Khmer Rouge tribunal.

You Bunleng and the three Cambodian judges of the Pre-Trial Chamber have issued sharp rebukes of international reserve co-investigating judge Laurent Kasper-Ansermet’s (pictured) note on the “egregious dysfunctions” of the tribunal, which You Bunleng called “a total exaggeration”.

“The National co-investigating judge is convinced that the resignation reflects [Kasper-Ansermet’s] taking responsibility for his professional as well as his procedural misconduct done thus far,” You Bunleng wrote in his press release.

He further accused Kasper-Ansermet of using the internal investigation mechanism of the tribunal as a “weapon to threaten various officers”.

However, documents obtained by the Post yesterday indicate that the stalemate between national and international staff at the tribunal has escalated to the point where the personal security of international staff may be at risk.

In email correspondence allegedly sent from the chief of security to Kasper-Ansermet, the judge was informed that Cambodian sources had said his security “could no longer be guaranteed”.

“With respect to cases 003 and 004, the suspects and their supporters were dangerous people and that this was the source of the danger,” the email says, citing a Cambodian source.

The email further states that Cambodian authorities would not provide official support for any of Kasper-Ansermet’s field missions.

Legal communications officer Lars Olsen yesterday said: “We never discuss security measures or threat assessments in the media. The UN Security Section at the court provides necessary support to UN Officials and staff based on threat assessments and available resources.”

The Swiss national last week announced his resignation, effective on May 4, and issued a note describing the situation at the tribunal for investigations in government-opposed cases 003 and 004.

He said was “completely blocked” from conducting proper investigations into the two cases.

In his press release yesterday, You Bunleng repeatedly articulates that Kasper-Ansermet does not have any legal authority to act and this is the reason the OCIJ seal has been withheld and why no documents generated by him were placed in the case file in 003 and 004.

You Bunleng claims this is not an “anti-measure” against Kasper-Ansermet and pointed to a recent dinner invitation from the former to the latter and the fact that Kasper-Ansermet has been able to conduct investigations as evidence of the Cambodian’s good will.

However, as both judges make clear, any investigative action conducted by the Swiss national is excluded from the case files in 003 and 004.

A source close to the court also told the Post that one of the five suspects in the two controversial cases refused to acknowledge receipt of his rights as they were not presented to him by You Bunleng personally.

The Cambodian judges of the Pre-Trial Chamber issued their own rebuke yesterday, criticising Kasper-Ansermet for not holding proper discussions with his Cambodian colleague, which led to the “different concepts involved with the investigations Mr Laurent wanted in cases 003 and 004”.

“Mr. Laurent should not attempt to do anything … He should secure his legal status before continuing any investigation,” the three judges wrote, including chamber president Prak Kimsorn, whom Kasper-Ansermet has initiated disqualification proceedings against.

“However [Kasper-Ansermet] continues to abusively work without legal status [from SCM], which caused the shameful conflict in the case 003 and 004,” the judges wrote.

The international judges of the Pre-Trial Chamber have previously issued an opinion that Kasper-Ansermet has full legal authority to investigate the two cases.

Visiting Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr yesterday announced a further $1.6 million pledge from Australia toward the court.

“The independence of the judiciary is paramount and the ECCC must be allowed to operate free from any external interference,” Senator Carr said.

To contact the reporters on this story: Bridget Di Certo at bridget.dicerto@phnompenhpost.com
Cheang Sokha at cheang.sokha@phnompenhpost.com

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