Nuon Chea Team Accuses You Bunleng of Political Bias

With fresh indictments at the Khmer Rouge tribunal expected in less than three months, foreign lawyers for Brother Number Two Nuon Chea lodged a motion this month seeking to disqualify Cam­bodian Co-Investigating Judge You Bunleng for alleged political bias.

Citing Judge Bunleng’s highly unexpected “about-face” early this month in which he crossed out his signature from instructions to investigators, defense lawyers Michiel Pestman and Victor Koppe accused Judge Bunleng of political bias and said he should be disqualified from all further proceedings in the investigation of the court’s five current detainees.

Reach Sambath, chief of public affairs, said yesterday that he had no comment on the substance of the motion.

“We know that they have filed a complaint, and we don’t know what the Pre-Trial Chamber will do about the complaint, but we know that they will do it according to the law,” he said.

Judge Marcel Lemonde, Judge Bunleng’s counterpart, has twice survived attempts to disqualify him on the basis of sworn accusations by an Australian former investigator.

In rejecting attempts to unseat Judge Lemonde and Pre-Trial Chamber Judge Ney Thol in 2008, the court has said that the threshold for the disqualification of a judge must necessarily be high, requiring those seeking a judge’s removal to provide clear, reliable evidence in order to overturn the presumption of impartiality.

In their motion filed on June 17, the defense cited Judge Bunleng’s refusal to participate in the summoning of former King Norodom Siha­nouk and six high-level CPP witnesses who refused to appear amid an angry government reaction last year.

They also cited Judge Bunleng’s crossing out of his signature in an investigation openly opposed by the government.

“If Judge Bunleng is willing to adhere to the government line on these issues, then it must be as­sumed that he would be amenable to further executive interference in case 002,” Mr Pestman and Mr Koppe wrote.

“Indeed, the reasonable observer would conclude that he may very well have succumbed to such pressure already on any number of confidential matters which have not yet [or may never] come to light.”

The motion proposes that the court question the co-investigating judges, Prime Minister Hun Sen, government spokesman Khieu Kanharith, Interior Ministry spokes­man Khieu Sopheak, legal affairs spokesman Lars Olsen and Mr Sambath.

The Co-Investigating Judges concluded their investigation in January. Under tribunal rules, actions already completed by Judge Bunleng would be allowed to stand in the event he is disqualified.

In a separate decision on Friday, the Pre-Trial Chamber dis­missed February motions by lawyers for Khmer Rouge Social Action Min­ister Ieng Thirith see­king to annul the results of the investigation as a result of allegations made by former investigator Wayne Bastin, who last year ac­cused Judge Lemonde of a pattern of misconduct.

As they had in rejecting similar motions by lawyers for former Foreign Minister Ieng Sary and former head of state Khieu Sam­phan, the judges said Mr Bastin’s claims were unsubstantiated or without merit.


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