Cambodia Khmer Rouge trial judges argue in public

The court supposed to be used by the UN-backed tribunal in Cambodia The court supposed to be used by the UN-backed tribunal has been hit by recent delays

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Two judges at a war crimes court in Cambodia have argued publicly about opening investigations into people suspected of crimes against humanity under the Khmer Rouge regime.

A Swiss judge angrily accused his Cambodian counterpart of stopping him from revealing key information about two cases opposed by the government.

Up to 2.2 million people died during the Khmer Rouge era (1975-1979).

It is the latest row between judicial officials at the UN-backed court.

The BBC's Guy Delauney in Phnom Penh says that their quarrelling was all the more extraordinary because it was openly conducted in public.

Rebuke

Under supreme leader Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge tried to build a Maoist peasant utopia, but descended into genocide as paranoid leaders sought to eliminate anyone who threatened them.

On Monday afternoon, the international co-investigating judge issued a statement to the media. Laurent Kasper-Ansermet said he was unable to provide updates on the progress of investigations because his Cambodian counterpart You Bunleng would not agree to it.

Who were the Khmer Rouge?

  • Maoist regime that ruled Cambodia from 1975-79
  • Led by Saloth Sar, better known as Pol Pot
  • Abolished religion, schools and currency in effort to create agrarian utopia
  • Up to two million people thought to have died of starvation, overwork or by execution
  • Defeated in Vietnamese invasion in 1979
  • Pol Pot fled and remained free until 1997 - he died a year later

The Swiss - who took on the role after a German judge resigned unexpectedly in October citing political opposition to further prosecutions - was rebuked by his Cambodian counterpart, who an hour later released a statement of his own.

You Bunleng accused his colleague of trying to conceal his comments from Cambodian officials by releasing them on a national holiday.

He said Mr Kasper-Ansermet was not legally accredited and lacked understanding of the legal principles of the tribunal's work.

The two men are supposed to be working together to investigate cases of people believed to have been responsible for the deaths.

The Swiss judge arrived in Cambodia four weeks ago, but the body has yet to convene, paralysing the work of the co-investigating judges.

Observers said Monday's terse exchanges have dimmed hopes that Mr Kasper-Ansermet could break the logjam.

A second trial involving the regime's three most senior surviving leaders is due to resume on Tuesday.

It has so far completed just one case - jailing Kaing Guek Eav, a former Khmer Rouge prison chief, for 30 years in July 2010 for overseeing the deaths of 15,000 people.

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