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HRW calls for resignation of judges in Cambodia genocide investigation

Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] on Monday demanded the resignation [text] of the two judges responsible for indictments at the Cambodian tribunal on Khmer Rouge [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] war crimes. HRW alleges that the two investigating judges for the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) [official website] have "egregiously violated their legal and judicial duties ... [by failing] to conduct proper and good-faith investigations [in violation of] their responsibilities to act impartially." The rights group said that the two judges, You Bunleng of Cambodia and Siegfried Blunk of Germany, "failed to conduct genuine, impartial, and effective investigations into ECCC cases 003 and 004," and that as a result both of those case will likely be dropped. Both cases deal with allegations of atrocities committed under the Khmer Rouge regime. In April 2011, the judges declared that they had concluded their investigation into Case 003 [materials] and a formal closing order is expected to be issued soon. The judges are also expected to close and dismiss Case 004 [materials]. Should closing orders be issued in either case, the prosecutor can appeal to the pre-trial chamber.

In July, the UN denied reports [JURIST report] it instructed the ECCC to close further investigations into war crimes committed under the Khmer Rouge regime after the controversial closing of Case 003. Doubts about the legitimacy and independence of the ECCC have been raised since the decision to close ECCC Case 3. In June, a coalition of more than 30 rights groups and development organizations in Cambodia issued an open letter [JURIST report] urging the ECCC to embrace a greater degree of transparency. Earlier that week, ECCC judges ordered Co-Prosecutor Andrew Cayley to retract public statements requesting further investigation [JURIST report] into Case 3. Cayley said the information was released pursuant to tribunal rules "to ensure that the public is duly informed about ongoing ECCC proceedings." The judges, however, said Cayley breached the tribunal's confidentiality and ordered the retraction. The only ECCC conviction since its founding in 2006 is of Kaing Guek Eav [ECCC backgrounder; JURIST news archive], better known as "Duch," a former prison chief at the notorious Toul Sleng prison under the Khmer Rouge. In March, he appealed his 35-year sentence for war crimes and crimes against humanity handed down by the ECCC [JURIST reports] last July.

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