Political Influence Ruins ECCC’s Independence

Posted by khmernews on August 22, 2007


After the Khmer Rouge (KR) Tribunal has charged Kaing Guek Eav, aka Duch, former head of Tuol Sleng (S-21) prison, with crimes against humanity and placed him in provisional detention center at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), some people think that the KR Tribunal is running smoothly forward and the KR trials will be able to get underway in early 2008 as planned.

However, some civil society’s officials and independent observers voice their opinion that the KR Tribunal will continue to face a sequence of obstacles, especially the appointment of Co-Investigating Judge You Bunleng as president of the Cambodian Court of Appeals, replacing Ly Vuochleng, allegedly accused of accepting bribes.

The United Nations announced on August 17, expressing its concerns over the efficiency of the KR Tribunal due to the appointment of You Bunleng to the Cambodian Court of Appeals, that the appointment violates the independence of the ECCC.

According to an official in the KR Tribunal’s Public Affaires, the UN is seeking for further clarification from the Cambodian officials on the case.

“My task as national Co-Investigating Judge at the ECCC is extremely important for my country and for humanity as a whole. As long as the ECCC considers my presence to be essential it is my duty to continue, ensuring there is no interruption or delay in the process,” said You Bunleng in a statement released on August 16.

“It’s necessary to reform the present impoverished legal system and eliminate corruption,” said a senior government official over the appointment. However, civil society’s officials assumed that it was made to prevent the trials of former KR leaders from happening.

“The promotion of You Bunleng, which has been requested by the Judicial Reform Committee, is made in response to the urgent need of reform in the Appeal Court,” explained Justice Minister Ang Vongvathana. The committee is known to be directed by Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, minister of Council of Ministers. Sok An is also the person who led the negotiation with the UN before the KR Tribunal was established. 

Concerning the problem, Adhoc’s Khmer Rouge Tribunal coordinator “Ysa Mosa” accepts that the Cambodian government has shown its effort in fighting corruption by changing the top position in the Appeal Court. It, however, has developed an obstacle for the KR Tribunal, he said. […]

In point number 7, Article 3 of the Agreement between the United Nations and the Cambodian government, the Co-Investigating Judges shall be appointed for the duration of the investigation. However, article 28 of the agreement states that in case the government changes the structure which doesn’t conform to the agreement, the UN has rights to suspend the funds. Therefore, the civil society’s officials are worried that if You Bunleng leaves the KR Tribunal, the UN can accuse the Cambodian government of intending to block the process of the tribunal from which Cambodians expect justice for which they have been waiting for almost 30 years.

Pong Chhiv Kek, President of the LICADHO, said that civil society organizations are concerned with the appointment to the Appeal Court of Co-Investigating Judge You Bunleng since it might slow down the process of the tribunal again.

“You Bunleng should choose between the KR Tribunal and his new position as the president of the Appeal Court,” said Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia (DC-Cam).

Meanwhile, KR Tribunal Spokesman Reach Sambath has claimed that the promotion of You Bunleng is an honorary reward for him, adding that there have been no negative impacts on the KR Tribunal yet so far.

Former senior KR leaders have been condemned for mass killings of more than 1.7 million Cambodians during their reign of terror between April 17, 1975 and early January 1979. Up to present, only has Kaing Guek Eav, known as Duch, former chief of Tuol Sleng prison, been investigated, charged and detained by the ECCC’s Co-Investigating Judges.

Other former KR leaders including Ieng Sary, Nuon Chea, Khieu Samphan and Ieng Thirith are living with freedom outside the jail.

All Cambodians want the tribunal to try living former KR leaders soon so that they will reveal the reasons of mass murder of more than 1.7 million Cambodians during the Killing Fields regime, and the Cambodian government, therefore, shouldn’t do anything that delays the trials; otherwise, those aging KR leaders might have died before the trials take place and Cambodian will not sense real justice forever.

Unofficial Translation
-Extracted from Samleng Yuvachun Khmer, Vol.14, #3117, Tuesday, 21 August 2007.


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