Rubber-stamped justice?

[Published in the Phnom Penh Post on January 26.]

Bridget Di Certo and Vong Sokheng’s front-page story (“Judge rejection ‘a breach’”, January 23) is mistaken or misleading on several points. First, nothing in the 2003 agreement establishing the ECCC requires the Supreme Council of the Magistracy or anyone else in Cambodia to “rubber-stamp” anything. The agreement did not cede Cambodian sovereignty to the United Nations; to claim that it did smacks of 19th century colonialist attitudes.

Secondly, there is a difference between an accusation and a proven fact. Some UN staff who resigned last May alleged or claimed or chargedthat there was a failure by the co-investigating judges to conduct a proper investigation. Your reporters refer to the alleged failure as simply “the failure”. They also neglect to mention the written statement of the co-investigating judges that the staff in question had secured alternative employment before they “resigned”.

Thirdly, it is unwarranted and emotional editorializing to write that the co-investigating judges “abruptly closed investigations” in April. They closed the investigation, obviously, when they thought it was time to do so. “Abruptly”, implying that there was something furtive or illegitimate about ending the investigation, really only means that your reporters were surprised. Were the judges supposed to send them advance notice, say a week or a month beforehand?

It is also a shame that their eagerness to indict the SCM for not rubber-stamping as ordered prevented your reporters from thinking about the interesting remarks of Judge Kasper-Ansermet that conclude their article. They write that he “told the Postlast week that he had reached several important decisions on cases 003 and 004”.

But Judge Kasper-Ansermet, even if he is eventually appointed, will have no authority to make decisions on his own. “Co-investigating judge” is more than just a name: it means that the two judges are intended to work together and attempt to arrive at common decisions, not that one of them makes decisions and the other rubber-stamps them.

Even more intriguing is how Kasper-Ansermet arrived at his “decisions” without having ever been legitimately involved in any of the ECCC’s investigations. As we know from his Twitter page, he had arrived at some fairly firm opinions about what should be done in cases 003 and 004 long before a collection of international “human rights” organisations hounded Judge Blunk into resigning. Does anyone imagine that charges brought by Judge Kasper-Ansermet would not be subject to a very reasonable challenge on the grounds of prejudice?

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