News / Asia

UN Legal Chief Wraps Up Visit to Cambodia’s Tribunal

U.N. Under Secretary-General for Legal Affairs Patricia O'Brien smiles during a meeting with Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Sok An in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, October 20, 2011.
U.N. Under Secretary-General for Legal Affairs Patricia O'Brien smiles during a meeting with Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Sok An in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, October 20, 2011.

The head of the United Nations’ Office of Legal Affairs wrapped up her visit to Cambodia’s troubled Khmer Rouge tribunal on Friday with strong words for the Cambodian government, which has long spoken out against two of the court’s investigations. But there was no mention of whether the U.N. would investigate the conduct of one of the court’s key offices that has been criticized by observers and survivors.

Patricia O’Brien’s visit to Phnom Penh came after German investigating judge Siegfried Blunk quit earlier this month citing political interference.

Late Thursday O’Brien said she had strongly urged Phnom Penh to stop making statements opposing the progress of two of the four main cases, known as Case 003 and 004. She also called for authorities to refrain from interfering in any way with the judicial process and reminded the government that it is obliged to cooperate fully with the tribunal.

Over the past year Cambodian ministers have publicly spoken out against the court’s final two cases.

Ou Virak, the president of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR), and a survivor of the Khmer Rouge, which killed his father welcomed O’Brien’s statement - in part.

“I thought the statement was concise enough, but my problem with it is that it referred to political statements by the government, by government officials. I think it doesn’t go far enough," he said. "We need to make sure that the U.N. is pushing for complete independence of the court, and therefore not just statements being made public, but any sign of interference by the government should be unacceptable - and that to me is what was missing.”

Court observers and survivor groups have criticized the conduct of the tribunal in recent months, arguing that judges were politically pressured to undermine their investigations into Cases 003 and 004.   

O’Brien’s statement did not mention whether the United Nations would investigate what had occurred at the Office of the Co-Investigating Judges - the arm of the court lead by Blunk and his Cambodian counterpart You Bunleng.

Ou Virak, the president of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR), is among those who have called for an independent investigation.

He said he and other Cambodian observers met with O’Brien on Friday and told the U.N. legal chief that the court must build public confidence.

“The court needs to provide this confidence by properly investigating, by putting into place the necessary mechanism to ensure there’s no such things in the future. But the problem is they have to address all these allegations including the allegation I think made lately by the resignation of Judge Blunk,” Oy said.

Virak said he was not encouraged by O'brien’s willingness to order a probe.

Instead, he says, the conversation from the U.N. side focused on reasons not to investigate.

U.N. spokesman Lars Olsen said Friday that O’Brien had gathered information so that the U.N. can decide “what action, if any, would be appropriate.”

Earlier this week the tribunal announced that Case 002, against the four surviving leaders of the Khmer Rouge, would start in late November.

And on Thursday the court heard arguments over whether defendant Ieng Thirith, the former social affairs minister, is fit to strand trial.

Medical experts say Ieng Thirith has dementia, and her legal team says she is not fit for trial. That is opposed by the prosecution and lawyers for civil parties.

The tribunal is expected to rule on Ieng Thirith’s fitness for trial in the coming weeks.

You May Like

Australia-Cambodia Resettlement Agreement Raises Concerns

Agreement calls for Cambodia to accept refugees in return for $35 million in aid and reflects Australia’s harder line approach towards asylum seekers and refugees More

India Looks to Become Arms Supplier Instead of Buyer

US hopes India can become alternative to China for countries looking to buy weapons, but experts question growth potential of Indian arms industry More

Earth Day Concert, Rally Draws Thousands in Washington

President Obama also took up the issue Saturday in his weekly address, saying there 'no greater threat to our planet than climate change' More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?i
Steve Sandford
April 17, 2015 12:50 AM
Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.

Video Sierra Leone President Koroma Bemoans Ebola Impact on Economy

In an interview with VOA's Shaka Ssali on Wednesday, President Ernest Koroma said the outbreak undermined his government’s efforts to boost and restructure the economy after years of civil war.

Video Protester Lands Gyrocopter on Capitol Lawn

A 61-year-old mailman from Florida landed a small aircraft on the Capitol lawn in Washington to bring attention to campaign finance reform and what he says is government corruption. Wednesday's incident was one in a string of security breaches on U.S. government property. Zlatica Hoke reports the gyrocopter landing violated a no-fly zone.

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.

Video Sidemen to Famous Blues Artists Record Their Own CD

Legendary blues singer BB King was briefly hospitalized last week and the 87-year-old “King of the Blues” may not be touring much anymore. But some of the musicians who have played with him and other blues legends have now released their own CD in an attempt to pass the torch to younger fans... and put their own talents out front as well. VOA’s Greg Flakus has followed this project over the past year and filed this report from Houston.

Video Iran-Saudi Rivalry Is Stoking Conflict in Yemen

Iran has proposed a peace plan to end the conflict in Yemen, but the idea has received little support from regional rivals like Saudi Arabia. They accuse Tehran of backing the Houthi rebels, who have forced Yemen’s president to flee to Riyadh, and have taken over swaths of Yemen. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA, analysts say the conflict is being fueled by the Sunni-Shia rivalry between the two regional powers.

VOA Blogs