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ECCC appoints US judge to investigate new war crimes cases

The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) [official website], Cambodia's UN-supported war crimes tribunal, announced Monday that it has appointed [press release] a US judge to investigate two new Khmer Rouge [BBC backgrounder] cases, strongly opposed by the government, after two other judges resigned in protest. Mark Harmon, a former prosecutor for the US government and also for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia [official website], was called upon [AFP report] by the special criminal court as the third foreign judge in less than a year to probe a pair of cases involving five suspects linked to Cambodia's government from 1975 to 1979, a regime that saw up to two million people die. Though the court believes it must pursue all culpable parties, the Cambodian government is said to fear that new prosecutions would destabilize the country.

In January, the UN refused to replace [JURIST report] German judge Siefried Blunk after Cambodia attempted to block the Swiss reserve judge Laurent Kasper-Ansermet from investigating the same politically-sensitive cases. Specifically, the Cambodian government contended that Kasper-Ansermet was unsuitable [Reuters report] to continue the investigation because he used his Twitter account to comment on the cases. Blunk, citing government interference in his investigations, resigned [JURIST report] in October, but was consistently criticized for allegedly failing to conduct impartial investigations. Meanwhile, Cambodia has argued that the trial of former Khmer Rougue leaders is a Cambodian rather than an international issue.

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