The judges who may one day sit on a panel prosecuting the Khmer Rouge will first need to survive to that day: One of the likely candidates was assassinated last month and another had a bullet fired into his office Monday night by unknown assailants.
Though it may be coincidence, the killing of Sok Sethamony in broad daylight and the late-night attack on the office of Handal Rakkan, general prosecutor of the Appeals Court, come at a time of escalating violence against judges and political figures in Cambodia.
The violence has sparked a tirade of criticism from US officials and human rights groups, but it also threatens the jurists who could be expected to sit on the Khmer Rouge tribunal endorsed by a UN committee last week.
Sok Sethamony was purported to be among a handful of jurists who put their own names forward for consideration for the war crimes tribunal, according to observers. Others included Nop Sophon, vice president of the municipal court, and most of the Supreme Court judges.
Also mentioned as possible Khmer Rouge judges by a wide range of people contacted by The Cambodia Daily were Supreme Council of Magistracy head Dith Munthy, Council of Jurists member Heng Chee, Council of Ministers member Heng Vong Bunchhat and Kim Sothavy, a judge and school director.
Cambodian negotiators struck a draft agreement with the UN in March that would require 11 Cambodian judges and one Cambodian prosecutor to try senior leaders of the Khmer Rouge.
Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday welcomed the news that a UN committee had endorsed the draft agreement.
“I am really very happy because the committee has finished [working on it] and I hope that the UN General Assembly will approve it as well. This is good news for Cambodian people who are waiting and waiting for justice a long time.”