Thursday, May 3, 2012

Email gaffe stirs calls for Cambodia KRouge judge to go

A judge in Cambodia's Khmer Rouge war crimes trial should be disqualified, defence teams said Wednesday, after a misfired email stirred accusations she had "inappropriate" access to a prosecutor

Judge Silvia Cartwright and prosecutor Andrew Cayley were last month warned by the UN-backed court's highest body that their trial management meetings could give the appearance they had privileged access to each other.

But the pair apparently continued to talk privately, according to an email meant for Cayley which the New Zealand judge accidentally sent to the entire court staff.

In the email, published on the court's website, Cartwright wrote: "As you know Andrew, I am seriously considering my own position. I shall not make a hasty ydecision (sic)."

Both play key roles in the trial of three senior ex-Khmer Rouge leaders who deny charges of war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity under the 1975-1979 regime blamed for the deaths of up to two million people.

"I filed an application to disqualify her," Michael Karnavas, who is defending former foreign minister Ieng Sary, told AFP.

"The nature of judge Cartwright's association with international co-prosecutor Cayley shows actual bias or, at a minimum, the appearance of bias," he wrote in a motion dated April 27.

He added that the email showed Cartwright -- one of five judges in the trial -- communicated with Cayley even after supreme court chamber judges deemed it "inappropriate".

Cartwright did not wish to comment but defence lawyers for co-accused "Brother Number Two" Nuon Chea joined calls for her dismissal.

"We support the Ieng Sary team's motion," lawyer Andrew Ianuzzi told AFP.

Court insiders were divided over how to interpret Cartwright's words, with some sources saying they appeared to show she was considering leaving the court, while others said they merely referred to her stance on the meetings.

The tribunal has been hit by a string of problems recently including financial woes and the resignation of two judges over political meddling.

Swiss investigating judge Laurent Kasper-Ansermet, who quit in March, leaves the court on Friday. The UN has yet to announce his replacement.

The court has so far completed just one case, sentencing a former prison chief to life in jail for overseeing the deaths of some 15,000 people.