Prime Minister Hun Sen weighed in on the controversial appointment of Khmer Rouge tribunal Co-Investigating Judge You Bunleng to the presidency of the Appeal Court August 24, saying that the appointment would not affect the tribunal.
According to a statement released August 24 by the government, Hun Sen made his remarks concerning You Bunleng at a meeting at the Council of Ministers.
“Samdech Prime Minister…spoke to [the meeting] about the issue related to Mr You Bunleng’s appointment…to be the Appeal Court president recently is only one additional position, and his duties as a judge at the Khmer Rouge tribunal must be kept the same, and there is nothing to block the process of the trial,” the statement read.
Hun Sen’s remarks at the Council of Ministers follow two weeks of escalating UN criticism over You Bunleng’s Aug 9 appointment.
In the days following the appointment, the UN expressed concern that the decision could have an adverse effect on the court. On Aug 16 the UN sent a letter to the government asking that You Bunleng be allowed to continue performing his duties at the tribunal. That was followed on Thursday by a stronger joint statement by UN human rights envoy Yash Ghai and Leandro Despouy, UN special rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, questioning the constitutionality of the appointment.
You Bunleng, who declined to speak with a reporter Friday, has previously stated that he would continue his position at the tribunal until a smooth transition can be made.
Peter Foster, UN spokesman for the tribunal, declined to officially comment on Hun Sen’s remarks, saying that the issue was now being discussed directly between the government and the UN in New York.
Sok Sam Oeun, executive director of the Cambodian Defenders Project, said that it should be possible for You Bunleng to hold both positions, particularly if he doesn’t preside over hearings at the Appeal Court.
(Additional reporting by John Maloy)