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Judge quits UN-Cambodian Khmer Rouge tribunal

Swiss judge Laurent Kasper-Ansermet has become the second international judge to resign from the UN-backed tribunal investigating war crimes committed during the 1970s in Cambodia, amid an ongoing dispute over political interference by Phnom Penh.

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Judge Laurent Kasper-Ansermet of Switzerland appears in this undated photograph published by the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia. (Courtesy)

LONDON, United Kingdom – A second international judge has resigned from the UN-backed Khmer Rouge war crimes tribunal in Cambodia, citing political interference by the Cambodian government amid an ongoing row over the pursuit of former members of the 1970s regime.

Swiss Judge Laurent Kasper-Ansermet said Monday he was leaving because his Cambodian counterpart, You Bunleng, had repeatedly blocked efforts to bring two potential new cases to the tribunal, according to the BBC.

In a statement released by the hybrid UN-Cambodian tribunal, which includes both international and Cambodian judges, Kasper-Ansermet said: “You Bunleng’s active opposition to investigations into cases 003 and 004 has led to a dysfunction situation.”

The judge added that “present circumstances no longer allow him to properly and freely perform his duties.” Kasper-Ansermet’s predecessor, Siegfried Blunk of Germany, resigned in October last year for similar reasons, the Agence France Presse reports.

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Critics have accused the Cambodian government of sabotaging efforts to investigate further suspects involved in the “year zero” revolution, which killed up to 2 million Cambodians between 1975 and 1979 as part of an attempt to create an agrarian utopia.

Prime Minister Hu Sen, a former Khmer Rouge soldier himself, told UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in 2010 that more indictments were “not allowed,” and has previously said he would be happy if the court packed up and left the country, according to Reuters.

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The tribunal is currently hearing case 002, which involves the three most senior surviving Khmer Rouge revolutionaries still alive. The three are accused of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.

The court concluded its first case in February, sentencing the Khmer Rouge’s chief jailer to life imprisonment for committing “shocking and heinous” crimes against the Cambodian people, the Associated Press reports.

Kaing Guek Eav, known as Comrade Duke, commanded the top-secret Tuol Sleng prison, where up to 16,000 people were tortured before being executed in the “killing fields.” 

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/120319/swiss-judge-quits-uncambodian-khmer-rouge-tribunal