CAMBODIA: After the resignation of the co-investigating Judge the issue of judicial independence needs to be addressed 

Siegfried Blunk, the International Co-Investigating Judge at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), resigned citing statements by the Cambodian government that could be perceived as attempted interference with the work of the court. The Co-investigating judge should be congratulated for speaking out on a long standing issue; that of the interference of the Cambodian government with the ECCC. The integrity of the ECCC and its usefulness to the public lies entirely with it independence.

This resignation naturally raises many questions. Despite of the wording contained in the country’s Constitution, created after the UN sponsored elections in 1993, the Cambodian government has persisted in obstructing the development of an independent judicial system. Several representatives of the United Nations Secretary General and Rapporteurs have continuously criticised the government for its failure in this regard.

However, the problem of the independence of the judiciary is Cambodia rises from the very nature of the political system of country, which has suppressed every aspect of democracy and rule of law. By a rigid process of control the functioning of independent political parties has been suppressed. Freedom of expression has been continuously attacked and even the United Nations High Commissioner’s office has not been allowed to function independently. Both parliament and the judiciary have been severely controlled by the executive. An all pervasive fear psychosis exists and the people fear serious physical consequences following any opposition to the government.

Under these circumstances Siegfried Blunk’s resignation will pose serious questions to the United Nations on the International Tribunal in Cambodia relating to the crimes which took place during the time of the notorious Khmer Rouge regime.

Can an independent tribunal function under the present political situation in the country? When Cambodia does not even allow an independent judiciary to exist how will an independent international tribunal function? These questions, which have been asked many times now, require credible answers, before the United Nations can settle the present crisis.

Document Type : Statement
Document ID : AHRC-STM-142-2011
Countries : Cambodia,
Issues : Judicial system,