UN denies reports it ordered close of Cambodia genocide investigation

UN denies reports it ordered close of Cambodia genocide investigation

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[JURIST] The UN on Tuesday denied reports it instructed the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) [official website] to close further investigations into war crimes committed under the Khmer Rouge [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archives] regime. In a controversial move, the ECCC closed Case 3 [materials] in April, one of four Cases supposed to be brought for atrocities committed under the Khmer Rouge regime. Cambodia media reports say that the five UN staff resigned [AFP report] in protest after a decision by the chamber to not pursue Case 3. In a published statement [press release] a spokesperson for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon [official website] said:

the United Nations categorically rejects media speculation that we have instructed the Co-Investigating Judges to dismiss [Case 3]. It similarly follows that the United Nations will not comment on issues which remain the subject of judicial consideration, nor speculate on actions that should or should not be taken by the judges or prosecutors in any case. As is normal practice, the United Nations will also not comment on internal United Nations administrative or staffing processes related to the ECCC. The United Nations will ensure that the international component of the ECCC, including the Office of the Co-Investigating Judges, has sufficient resources to undertake its work.

The statement said that the investigations are not to be conducted in public and must remain confidential as is consistent with the civil law system of Cambodia. Earlier this week, the Open Society Justice Initiative [advocacy website] criticized [BBC report] what it called “blatant” attempts [report, PDF] by the Cambodian government to influence the proceedings and urged the UN and the international community to do more to defend the judicial independence of the ECCC. Some critics believe that the investigation into ECCC Case 3 was ended prematurely [AP report] after demands by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen [BBC profile] to limit the prosecutions.

Doubts about the legitimacy and independence of the ECCC have been raised since the decision to close ECCC Case 3. Last month, 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. In the letter, the groups outline “grave concerns” that the highly classified nature of Case 3 and Case 4 [materials] betrays a lack of “genuine” effort to bring the former members of the Khmer Rouge [BBC profile; JURIST news archives] to justice and implicates that the “impartiality, integrity and … independence of ECCC judges are being tainted.” 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.