The United Nations said Thursday it would not tolerate impunity at Cambodia's Khmer Rouge war crimes court in a worsening row with Phnom Penh about whether to pursue more suspects.
In a major setback to the UN-backed tribunal, a Swiss judge on Monday became the second international judge in six months to resign over difficulties probing two new cases linked to the 1975-1979 regime blamed for the deaths of up to two million people. The government strongly opposes the cases.
The UN is now likely discussing whether to find a replacement for Laurent Kasper-Ansermet from May 4 or possibly pull out of the court altogether, observers say.
"The United Nations, in its dealings with the (court), remains committed to ensuring that impunity for the crimes committed during the period of the Democratic Kampuchea is not tolerated," UN chief Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Martin Nesirky said in an email to AFP.
The UN had earlier expressed "concern" about the latest resignation, but issued a much stronger statement on Thursday after Kasper-Ansermet published a document detailing how his efforts to investigate the cases were blocked at every turn by his Cambodian colleague.
Kasper-Ansermet alleges that his counterpart made it difficult for him to have access to drivers, translators and even the office's official seal to validate court filings.
"The United Nations is seriously concerned about these worrying developments," said Nesirky.
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, himself a former cadre before he defected, has long objected to the potential new cases involving five mid-level Khmer Rouge members, telling Ban in 2010 that prosecutions beyond the current second trial were "not allowed".
Asked whether Cambodia stood by that position, Ek Tha, a government spokesman, told AFP: "Whatever my prime minister says, I respect his decision."
Kasper-Ansermet's resignation came after a German judge quit the court in October citing government interference in the controversial cases.
The UN named reserve judge Kasper-Ansermet as his replacement but Phnom Penh refused to recognise the appointment, and the UN reminded Cambodia on Thursday this was "a breach" of the agreement establishing the court.
The tribunal has so far completed just one case, sentencing a former prison chief to life in jail for overseeing the deaths of some 15,000 people.
Source: AFP Asian Edition