[JURIST] The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) [official website] on Tuesday rejected [judgment, PDF] a request by lawyers for a former Khmer Rouge [BBC backgrounder] leader to examine two international judges for bias. Lawyers representing former minister of foreign affairs Ieng Sary [Trial Watch profile] sought a public hearing on the independence of Dutch judge Katinka Lahuis and Australian judge Rowan Downing [official profiles]. In the request [motion, PDF] the lawyers cited a speech given by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen [official profile] accusing foreign judges and prosecutors of receiving orders from their governments to meddle in Cambodian affairs. Sun's speech was made after the two judges supported requests for investigations [JURIST report] into five additional Khmer Rouge suspects. In denying the request of defense lawyers, the court stated:
A charge of partiality must be supported by factual basis. The mere fact that a judge has been subjected to press criticism does not require the judge's disqualification. Although public confidence may be as much shaken by publicized inferences of bias that are false as by those that are true, disqualification applications have typically ignored "rumors, innuendos, and erroneous information published as facts in newspapers and threats or other attempts to intimidate the judge."
Sary's trial will be closely watched, as if follows the prosecution of Kaing Guek Eav [Trial Watch profile; JURIST news archive], also known as "Duch," who is first Khmer Rouge official tried before the ECCC. Sary is the second of eight [JURIST report] ex-Khmer Rouge officials expected to be tried before the ECCC, which recently announced the establishment of an independent counselor to oversee anti-corruption efforts [JURIST reports]. In August Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] asked the ECCC to determine the scope of its prosecutions [JURIST report] "to thwart growing perceptions that court decisions are directed by the government." In February, HRW warned that ECCC trials were in danger of being tainted for their failure to follow fair trial standards, and in January a Cambodian court agreed to hear a corruption case [JURIST reports] involving two ECCC judges.