Wednesday 06 Oct 2021 | 11:23 | SYDNEY
Wednesday 06 Oct 2021 | 11:23 | SYDNEY

Cambodia sinking, and so is its tribunal

21 October 2011 14:11

In keeping with the less than glacial pace at which the Khmer Rouge Tribunal has functioned (officially the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, or ECCC) since its formal establishment in 2006, it now seems probable that no verdict will be reached in relation to the four defendants in Case 2, currently before the court, before 2012 at the earliest (details of the defendants in this case may be found in my post, 'Khmer Rouge tribunal problems, again').

To date, the only conviction recorded by the tribunal has been that of Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Duch, the director of the infamous S-21 extermination centre at Tuol Sleng.

Controversy has again emerged because of the international prosecutor's attempt to have additional cases heard by the ECCC. Two key elements have been involved in the latest undermining of the tribunal's standing. First has been the resignation, earlier this month, of the German international judge, Siegfried Blunk, who has alleged interference from the Cambodian Government in the tribunal's procedures.

This allegation has been accompanied by renewed criticism of the role played by the UN, with suggestions that body has failed to act when allegations have been made about the tribunal. These points are summarised in an article by James Goldston of the Open Society Initiative, which has long been critical of the tribunal and its processes.

In response, the UN has issued a statement stating that Goldston's article 'mischaracterises' the UN's position and that its representative will travel to Phnom Penh to look into the allegations of government interference.

Given the restrained fashion in which the UN has acted in relation to previous allegations of government interference and the payment of kickbacks within the tribunal, it would be optimistic to expect much to come from this visit. Moreover, Prime Minister has Hun Sen has made clear that he does not want the tribunal to undertake any more cases, let alone sanction any investigations about issues of interference or kickbacks.

These continuing disappointments take place against massive floods that have devastated Cambodia at the same time as the much better reported floods in Thailand. Losses of life in Cambodia have been much higher proportionately in Cambodia than in Thailand. What is more, and in a dramatic and unprecedented move in peacetime, Hun Sen has cancelled the most popular festival of the Cambodian year, Bon Um Tuk, the Water Festival, which was due to take place in mid-November.

Photo by Flickr user chrissam42.