Concerns Still Voiced Over Appointment of You Bunleng

Posted by khmernews on September 20, 2007

Neth Pheaktra

Both the United Nations and civil society organizations are still expressing their concerns over the appointment of Co-Investigating Judge You Bunleng to head the Appeals Court as up to the present time Cambodian side still hasn’t explained clearly about the issue. The UN has requested the Cambodian side to consider keeping the judge to work for the ECCC.
The concerns over the appointment of Co-Investigating Judge You Bunleng to replace former Appeals Court President Ly Vuochleng has been increasing as it is worried that the appointment will produce impacts on the process and judicial independence of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal

“The UN has officially expressed their concerns over the appointment of Co-Investigating Judge You Bunleng to the new presidency of the Appeals Court,” ECCC UN Spokesman Peter Foster was quoted as saying. He added that the UN had requested Cambodian authorities to consider keeping Mr. You Bunleng in his present position as the Co-Investigating Judge at the ECCC.

Yash Ghai, UN special representative for Human Rights in Cambodia, and Leandro Despouy, spokesman for the commission of the independence of judges and lawyers, have expressed their concerns over the independence of the Cambodian court system and over the appointment of Mr. You Bunleng to the presidency of the Appeals Court. “Legal and judicial reform is crucially important to the future development of Cambodia; but it should not be undertaken at the expense of the essential protections provided to judges, including guarantees of tenure, that enable judges to administer, and be seen to administer, justice efficiently, impartially and fairly, free of political interference,” they pointed out.

Concerning the appointment, Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee (CHRAC) stated that they were also deeply concerned since it might cause obstruction to the Khmer Rouge Tribunal. The committee claimed that the appointment had violated the principles of the appointment and independence which are stated in the 2003-agreement between Cambodia and the UN and 2004-law on the establishment of the ECCC.

At present, the UN and civil society organizations as well as victims of the Khmer Rouge regime are waiting for answers from government. The Cambodian government, up to now, still hasn’t explained clearly about the reason why they appointed You Bunleng, who is currently working at the ECCC, to work as the president of the Appeals Court. However, Reach Sambath, spokesman for the ECCC, claimed that the ECCC was considering resolving this problem.

In his statement on August 16, Co-Investigating Judge You Bunleng affirmed his stance to work at the ECCC. “At the same time, 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. I will continue my mission at the ECCC until such time as an appropriate and smooth transition can be made, and I have already begun consultation with my staff and my international counterpart to reach a mutually acceptable and constructive solution that does not disrupt our work,” he wrote in the statement.

Judge You Bunleng also explained that his appointment to the new position at the Appeals Court did not violate the agreement between Cambodia and the UN. “We recognise that, under the ECCC Law and the 2003 Agreement, the Co-Investigating Judges shall be appointed for the duration of the investigation. However, both instruments also provide for the appointment of reserve Co-Investigating Judges, indicating that the possibility of change is clearly foreseen. The ECCC, as any other court, has to provide for the contingency in which any national or international judge might be unable to continue their function, in exceptional circumstances.”

“I believe that the arrangements we are implementing to deal with this new situation are fully in accordance with the ECCC Law and the Agreement,” he said at the end of his statement.

The hybrid Cambodian-UN ECCC for the trials of former senior Khmer Rouge leaders and those most responsible for severe crimes committed during 1975-1979 Democratic Kampuchea regime is moving very slowly forward with difficulties due to obstacles arising one after another. After a lengthy negotiation on the establishment of the ECCC, it slid into a deadlock over the adoption of the internal rules. Then, there were foreign lawyer registration problem, Cambodian side’s budgetary shortfalls, and corruption allegation. And now there is an appointment of Co-Investigating Judge You Bunleng to a new position while ECCC’s Co-Investigating Judges received the Introductory Submission from Co-Prosecutors in the middle of July.

As many obstacles have been arising, the general public has been suspicious about the willingness of the Cambodian government on the trials of former Khmer Rouge leaders.

The only Khmer Rouge suspect who has been accused and made public, Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Duch, former head of Toul Sleng prison, has been charged with crimes against humanity. Other former Khmer Rouge leaders are still living with freedom in Pailin and other former Khmer Rouge regions. At the present time, those former Khmer Rouge leaders are ageing and with illnesses. Victims of the Khmer Rouge regime and spirits of the dead who died of starvation, torture and killings have been waiting for long-awaited justice expected to be given by the Khmer Rogue Tribunal.

Concerning the appointment of You Bunleng, PM Hun Sen pointed out that it was only an additional position for the judge and his duties at the ECCC would be kept the same. “It won’t block the process of the tribunal,” he claimed.

Unofficial Translation
-Extracted from Somne Thmey, #125, Monday-Sunday, August 27-September 2, 2007.


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