Cambodian Co-Investigating Judge You Bunleng yesterday issued a powerful riposte to his Swiss counterpart’s attack on Cambodian court officers last week, welcoming the resignation of Reserve Co-Investigating Judge Laurent Kasper-Ansermet and accusing him of professional misconduct.
Judge Bunleng’s gossipy counter-narrative of infighting within the Office of Co-Investigating Judges (OCIJ) refutes many of Judge Kasper-Ansermet’s specific accusations, but confirms his account of profound dysfunction in an office paralyzed by a schism along Cambodian-international lines.
Judge Kasper-Ansermet abruptly resigned last week, detailing in a report how he was blocked from taking any legal action by Cambodians within OCIJ who even withheld the office’s official seal from him.
Among the bizarre revelations in Judge Bunleng’s statement is that Judge Kasper-Ansermet once allegedly snuck into the office of OCIJ’s Cambodian greffier in order to find the OCIJ seal, accompanied by an international greffier.
Judge Bunleng also accuses OCIJ international legal unit head Ignacio Tredici of calling former Investigating Judge Siegfried Blunk a “connard,” a French vulgarism whose translation is unprintable.
And he reveals that OCIJ investigator Paolo Pastore Stocchi had filed a formal complaint to UN chief legal counsel Patricia O’Brien in October after going rogue during an internal investigation into obstruction of justice. Judge Bunleng accuses all three men of misconduct.
Judge Bunleng admits that some accusations levied by Judge Kasper-Ansermet are true, including that he refused to allow the Swiss judge to unilaterally file documents in cases 003 and 004. But he says he was justified in this because the Cambodian Supreme Council of the Magistracy refused to confirm the Swiss judge as a full-fledged investigating judge.
The UN maintains that this refusal was a breach of the tribunal’s founding agreement.
“The National Co-Investigating Judge would like to further clarify that, although the International Reserve Co-Investigating Judge made accusations of obstruction and interference, in reality, he has so far conducted his missions in various provinces smoothly, and at the particular moment of the issuance of his press release making such allegations, the International Reserve Co-Investigating Judge [was] conducting interviews with civil parties in the ECCC’s small courtroom,” Judge Bunleng concluded.
In a separate statement issued only in Khmer, the three national judges of the Pre-Trial Chamber yesterday called Judge Kasper-Ansermet a “manipulator” who “shamelessly caused problems in relation to cases 003 and 004 and transformed all disputes into new forms.” The national-international rift at the court has invaded the Pre-Trial Chamber in recent months, with national and international judges battling over whether to consider requests filed by Judge Kasper-Ansermet.
All three Cambodian pre-trial judges insist that Judge Kasper-Ansermet is not a true judge, and a furor hit the court last month when Pre-Trial Chamber President Prak Kimsan returned the requests without allowing his international colleagues to come to a decision.
“Because there is a disagreement…at the Office of Co-Investigating Judges, Mr. Laurent should not attempt to file any proposal to the Pre-Trial Chamber to resolve,” wrote judges Kimsan, Ney Thol and Huot Vuthy in yesterday’s statement. “He should seek his rehabilitation approval via legal basis from a competent institution before proceeding on his own investigation.”
Throughout the statement, they pointedly referred to him as “Mr. Laurent,” withholding the title “judge.”
Judge Kasper-Ansermet did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
(Additional reporting by Kuch Naren)