The Khmer Rouge tribunal’s chief defense administrator, Richard Rogers, announced his resignation yesterday after four years at the court.
In a parting statement, Mr Rogers once again highlighted the issue of political interference at the tribunal, pinpointing it as “the greatest challenge for the defense.”
Last week, after Prime Minister Hun Sen met UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and insisted there would be no further prosecutions of Khmer Rouge leaders, Mr Rogers publicly expressed concern about whether defendants could receive a fair trial given the apparent lack of judicial independence.
“While there are judicial voting mechanisms in place to guard against this possibility [of interference], they may yet prove to be inadequate,” he said in yesterday’s statement.
“If the proceedings are to meet international standards, the court must ensure that defense teams are provided with an effective remedy for addressing all fair trial concerns, including those relating to political interference.”
Mr Rogers was out of the country and could not be reached yesterday, but Rupert Abbott, a legal officer at the defense support section, said he would be acting as head of the unit until a permanent replacement could be found in the coming months.
Court spokesman Lars Olsen said yesterday that Mr Rogers’ departure had been anticipated for quite some time.
“His contract has expired and he decided not to renew it,” he said, adding that a recruitment process was under way for his successor. Mr Olsen declined to discuss the substance of the departure announcement.
Michael Karnavas, the American defense lawyer for former Foreign Minister Ieng Sary, wrote in an e-mail that he appreciated Mr Rogers’ willingness to confront the issue of political interference head-on.
“His parting comments merit serious consideration,” he said. “The simple question that begs to be answered is whether the judges will guard against any direct or indirect interference.”
The Open Society Justice Initiative on Tuesday called for the tribunal to press forward with its third and fourth cases, which the government opposes, concluding in a report that political interference had “come to haunt the ECCC.”
“The points [Mr Rogers] has raised about evidence of political interference and the concerns it raises for the fair trial rights of each of the accused have been important because they are publicly ignored by many within the court,” OSJI court monitor Heather Ryan said by e-mail yesterday.
“Rogers’ willingness to address these issues has been crucial to his effectiveness. The ECCC must now act with urgency to find a replacement for Rogers with equal willingness to press for a solution to the problem of interference at the court and enforcement of fair trial rights.”