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UN legal chief urges Cambodia government not to interfere with Khmer Rouge tribunal

UN Under-Secretary General for Legal Affairs Patricia O'Brien on Thursday urged the government of Cambodia to refrain from interfering with the UN-backed tribunal tasked with trying those alleged responsible for mass killings and other crimes committed under the Khmer Rouge [JURIST news archive; BBC backgrounder]. In a meeting in with Cambodia's Deputy Prime Minister Sok An to discuss recent developments at the tribunal—the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) [official website; JURIST news archive]—O'Brien expressed concern and reiterated the call to respect the integrity and independence of the tribunal. In an official statement, her office noted:

The Legal Counsel strongly urged the Royal Government of Cambodia to refrain from statements opposing the progress of Cases 003 and 004 and to refrain from interfering in any way whatsoever with the judicial process. She emphasized the obligation of the Royal Government of Cambodia to cooperate fully with the ECCC.
The pressure for UN action results from the resignation of Siegfried Blunk [JURIST report], one of the judges for the ECCC, who blamed political interference for his decision.

Earlier this week, the UN-backed ECCC announced that the trial of the surviving Khmer Rouge leaders will begin [JURIST report] on Monday, November 21. Last week, rights groups urged the UN [JURIST report] to assure that Cambodia will not interfere with the tribunal's work. In September, the ECCC ordered the trials of four alleged Khmer Rouge leaders be split into a series of smaller trials [JURIST report]. The ECCC said that the separation of trials will allow the tribunal to deliberate more quickly in the case against the four elderly defendants.

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