PHNOM PENH — The international prosecutor at Cambodia’s embattled Khmer Rouge tribunal has quit. The resignation of Andrew Cayley, who was appointed to the post in December 2009, comes as the court prepares closing arguments in its first mini-trial of two surviving Khmer Rouge leaders.
British national Andrew Cayley told VOA that it was no secret he was planning to resign this year, but said he was leaving now for personal and professional reasons. He did not elaborate and said his resignation will not affect the ongoing prosecutions under his authority.
Cayley’s departure, which is effective September 16, comes at a crucial time in the court’s prosecution of two surviving Khmer Rouge leaders: Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan.
Nuon Chea was Pol Pot’s deputy, while Khieu Samphan was head of state of the regime that is believed responsible for the deaths of two million people between 1975 and 1979.
The trial of the elderly defendants - known as Case 002 - is so complex that the court divided it into a number of smaller trials. The first of those mini-trials concluded in July. Since then the prosecution, the defense and the lawyers for the civil parties have been preparing their closing submissions.
All are scheduled to file their submissions later this month, with the court due to hear arguments in October. A judgment is expected next year.
Cayley said that process, as far as the prosecution was concerned, remained on track.
“What I’ve done in the past month - which I undertook to the UN to do - is I’ve put in place measures basically that the case will continue to a proper conclusion," said Cayley. "Our written submissions are almost complete and will be ready to be filed on the 26th of September. So yes, it’s not an ideal situation, but certainly the office is well prepared for my departure. And the office is not just about me - it’s about a whole team of people working together, and me departing is not going to affect the quality of the work.”
Cayley’s departure also comes as the court is dealing with a strike by Cambodian staff. They walked out a week ago after having not been paid since May. The strike could delay the court’s efforts to hear closing submissions by the end of October.
Under the rules of this hybrid tribunal, the Cambodian government is responsible for finding the funds to pay national staff - but it says it cannot afford to do so.
The United Nations’ role is to fund the international side. But in recent weeks U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has warned that the court could collapse, and asked countries to donate the three million dollars needed to keep the national side running until the end of the year.
Although salaries for international staff are not affected, Cayley says the funding crisis has made the lives of his Cambodian co-workers difficult.
“Looking at my national colleagues, it’s not just critical for the functioning of the court; it’s actually critical to their lives," said Cayley. "These are people who haven’t been paid for several months, and they have families that need to be supported. That’s why I think it needs to be resolved as quickly as possible.”
Despite the litany of problems that have affected the tribunal, Cayley believes it will deliver some measure of justice for the Cambodian people.
“Frankly, actually, I don’t really leave here with any disappointments. You know, the court is what it is," said Cayley. "It has the challenges that it has. It’s still here - and hopefully will be here to finish the work that it has left. I hope at the end of it all the Cambodian people find some level of relief and satisfaction in what the court has produced and will produce.”
Cayley’s replacement is U.S. lawyer Nicholas Koumjian, who has worked previously at the Special Court for Sierra Leone and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. Koumjian is scheduled to arrive in Cambodia next month.