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The UN Secretary-General in Cambodia

By: Norbert Klein Posted: November-02-2010 in
Norbert Klein

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 688

Some readers considered last Sunday’s Reflections on Cambodia in the United Nations… to be naively disregarding the realities. Reconsidering what was written, I do not agree with such a negative evaluation. Is it not similar with considering the Constitution of a country? Even if a Constitution is not fully implemented, it is possible and necessary to regularly refer to it, claiming the rights and procedures to be realized which the text of a Constitution states.

Is it not similar with the membership in the United Nations? Not all its solemn Declarations and Covenants are equally implemented in all countries which have subscribed to them and have ratified them. But still it is important to be aware of what such membership aims at, and to remember and proclaim what is important, as the governments of this fellowship have lifted some principles up together – and all members are called to adhere to them.

Today’s Mirror will reflect some of the press releases and reports already available about the 25 to 27 October 2010 visit of the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon. This will – reflecting different views – call again to compare them, and to reflect what some differences in the positions stated, means for the realities in which we live, and how to find common ground. Because common ground will eventually have to be found.

It had been announced before his arrival that he would also visit the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia – ECCC – the Khmer Rouge tribunal – and the Tuol Sleng Genocide Memorial. How important these visits are for him is obvious from his personal remarks at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (excerpts), published by the Legal Communications Officer of the ECCC:

I have followed your work, closely and with keen interest … as have many, many others around the world…

From my first day in office, I made the fight against impunity a top UN priority. Accountability … justice …

After visiting the Rwanda Genocide Memorial, I was firmly resolved in my commitment and wrote in the guest book the words, “never again.”

I have sought to make these the touchstones of my tenure as Secretary-General…

Each of you … regardless of your job title or level of seniority …is helping to advance that cause…

The international community attaches tremendous importance to your efforts.

It is almost impossible to describe what took place in Cambodia during the 1970s.

It is essential … fundamentally important … that we insist on accountability for those shocking crimes…

That is why I am so strongly committed to supporting you.

I emphasized this in my meeting this morning with Prime Minister Hun Sen.

We discussed the need for this Court to receive the full cooperation of the government. There should be complete respect for its judicial independence.

I underlined the United Nations’ firm support for these important principles…

Nevertheless, putting the senior Khmer Rouge leaders on trial, even 30 years after, is itself a powerful message…

A message that impunity will not be tolerated … neither by the people of Cambodia and their government, nor by the United Nations and the international community…

Cambodians want to see justice done. That is why 31,000 of them personally attended the trial, and many more watched from afar…

Beyond all doubt, the court has shown that it is capable of prosecuting complex international crimes in accordance with international standards…

This is a source of strength, but it also brings challenges.

It is only natural that these parallel structures lead at times to differences of opinion and approach.

This is why the Agreement between the Royal Government of Cambodia and the United Nations lays down procedures for dealing with such problems.

The ability of the Court to resolve them through an independent judicial process, free from political influence, is one of its greatest assets.

Many of you may be worried about the financing of the Court. Let me assure you that the United Nations is working with the Government and principal donors to ensure that this work can continue uninterrupted until the completion of the Court’s mandate…

Each of you plays his or her part: drivers, translators, administrators, prosecutors, judges … national and international staff alike…

Your work is vital in the world’s fight against impunity.

A report in the Phnom Penh Post, Hun Sen to Ban Ki-Moon: Case 002 last trial at ECCC of 27 October 2010, indicates that there are different conceptions at work when it comes to defining the relationship of courts of justice and governments. How they will be resolved only the future will show.

Prime Minister Hun Sen said there were to be no further prosecutions at the Khmer Rouge tribunal beyond its second case during a meeting with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in Phnom Penh on Wednesday.

Foreign Minister Hor Namhong told reporters following the meeting that Hun Sen considered pending investigations in Cases 003 and 004 a threat to the Kingdom’s “stability”.

“Samdech [Hun Sen] clearly affirmed that Case 003 will not be allowed,” Hor Namhong said. “We have to think about peace in Cambodia or the court will fail,” he said.

“The court will try the four senior leaders successfully and then finish with Case 002.”

Hun Sen has repeatedly expressed his opposition to investigations in cases 003 and 004, which feature five suspects whose names remain confidential.

Cambodian officials at the UN-backed court, including co-prosecutor Chea Leang and Co-Investigating Judge You Bunleng, have fallen in line with the prime minister’s view, generating accusations that the government is interfering in the work of the court.

Last year, international prosecutor William Smith made submissions regarding cases 003 and 004 to the Co-Investigating Judges without Chea Leang’s support; in June, French Co-Investigating Judge Marcel Lemonde announced that he was moving forward with the investigations despite a lack of support from You Bunleng.

The Mirror had reported in more detail on 10 June 2010 about these controversies: that Judge You Bunleng had first signed a proposal to go ahead with additional investigations, but then he withdrew his signature again

This article was first published by The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 688 - Wednesday, 27.10.2010
Have a look at the last editorial - you can access it directly from the main page of The Mirror.

Norbert Klein is the Editor of The Mirror – The Mirror is a daily comprehensive summary and translation of the major Khmer language press - More about The Mirror

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