UN: Cambodia breaches war crimes agreement

Phnom Penh - Cambodia's refusal to appoint an international judge to the Khmer Rouge war crimes tribunal is "a matter of serious concern," United Nations said Saturday.

UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said Secretary General Ban Ki-moon had been informed Thursday of Cambodia’s decision not to appoint Laurent Kasper-Ansermet to a vacant post of tribunal judge.

Nesirky called it a "breach" of a 2003 agreement between the UN and Cambodia on Khmer Rouge prosecutions.

"The United Nations continues to support judge Kasper-Ansermet and Cambodia should take immediate steps to appoint him as international co-investigating judge," he said.

David Scheffer, a UN adviser to the trials, was travelling to Phnom Penh on Saturday for discussions with the government and senior court officials.

A government spokesman said the judiciary had a right to choose whether to approve the UN-nominated judge or not. In November, the government raised "ethical concerns" over Kasper-Ansermet.

The role of international co-investigating judge has been vacant since controversial German judge Siegfried Blunk stepped down in October, citing perceived political interference in two cases currently under investigation.

Senior Cambodian officials have repeatedly said the government would not permit either case to reach trial at the UN-backed court.

The tribunal is investigating crimes against humanity during the radical regime’s 1975-79 rule, during which 1.7 million to 2.2 million people died, according to tribunal estimates.//DPA

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