More trouble with the Khmer Rouge Tribunal

It’s been a while since we’ve seen much news regarding the Khmer Rouge Tribunal. The second trial, featuring Nuon Chea (Brother Number 2), Khieu Samphan (former head of state), Ieng Sary (former foreign minister), Ieng Thirith (minister for social affairs), is due to start soon. Unlike Duch, these four defendants allege their innocence and vow to fight the charges.

However, a new dispute appears to have broken out between the Cambodian and international members of the tribunal. The international prosecutors want to bring several more defendants before the trial, while the judges seem to want to avoid further prosecutions. In fact, the behavior of some of the judges has been shockingly unprofessional. According to the BBC:

They [the judges] warned they would punish a “disloyal staff member” they suspected of leaking information. And they “welcomed” the resignation of international staff who disagreed with their approach to investigations, one of whom referred to a “toxic atmosphere of mutual mistrust” in a “professionally dysfunctional office”.

[Judge] Blunk also rebuked a journalist who asked whether the judges were trying to “bury” the third case, telling him: “The use of the word ‘bury’ is insolent, for which you are given leave to apologise within two days.”

Of course, as everybody knows, the best way to inflame a reporter’s charge is to try to attack the messanger. BBC also interviewed some Cambodian activists who suspected that the United Nations simply wants to wrap up the trials as soon as possible in order to save money.

Overall, this is a sad state of affairs for the KRT process and a far cry from what its supporters had hoped. It looks less and less likely that the KRT will have any meaningful impact on the Cambodian legal system. Perhaps the second trial at least will provide enough of a sense of justice to allow Cambodians to close the book on this part of their history.

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