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Cambodia genocide tribunal's legitimacy threatened by judge dispute: rights group

The continuing dispute between Cambodia and the UN over the appointment of Judge Laurent Kasper-Ansermet to the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) [official website] threatens the legitimacy of the court [report, PDF; press release], the Open Society Justice Initiative [advocacy website] said Thursday. Kasper-Ansermet took over for Judge Siegfried Blunk who resigned [JURIST report] in October due to Cambodian political interference with the court. The report recommends that the UN continue to maintain its position supporting Kasper-Ansermet, insist the Royal Govenrment of Cambodia accept Kasper-Ansermet, provide financial and human resources assistance so that Kasper-Ansermet can perform his duties and continue to monitor Cambodia's compliance with the 2003 ECCC agreement [text, PDF].

Kasper-Ansermet is the judge tasked with investigating two possible suspects believed to be involved in the deaths of around 1.7 million people during the reign of the Khmer Rouge [BBC backgrounder] regime. The investigation relates to ECCC cases 003 and 004 [materials]. The UN refused to replace [JURIST report] Laurent Kasper-Ansermet in January. ECCC judges, including Blunk, have been criticized for allegedly failing to conduct impartial investigations. Cambodia has argued that the trial of former Khmer Rouge leaders is a Cambodian issue and should not be a matter of international concern. Also in October, defense lawyers for accused Khmer Rouge leader Nuon Chea filed a lawsuit [JURIST report] against Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen [BBC profile] for interfering with the UN-backed war crimes tribunal. Nuon's lawyers accused the prime minister of criminally conspiring to block some of the defense witnesses from testifying [Reuters report] and consequently interfering with his right to a fair trial. In September, the ECCC ordered the trials be split into a series of smaller trials [JURIST report].

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