[JURIST] A co-prosecutor at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) [official website] announced on Tuesday that he was stepping down [statement, PDF; oral statement, PDF] in September for personal and family reasons. Canadian Robert Petit [official profile], charged with trying those responsible for atrocities committed during the rule of the Khmer Rouge [BBC backgrounder], called his work at the court the "greatest privilege of [his] career." Petit became International Co-Prosecutor at ECCC in 2006, after working as a prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) and the UN Mission of Assistance in East Timor, and in the War Crimes Section of the Canadian Department of Justice [official websites]. Petit said that his departure would not affect that work of the court, and that he was confident that the UN would name a successor soon. The Cambodian national co-prosecutor Chea Leang will continue on in her role.
The ECCC is in the midst of the first trial of a former Khmer Rouge leader, Kaing Guek Eav [TrialWatch backgrounder, JURIST news archive], also known as "Duch." Last week, the court found that Kaing has been detained unlawfully [JURIST report] by a Cambodian military court for the past 10 years, but denied a defense request for his release. In late April, Kaing admitted to training prison staff to use torture [JURIST report] to obtain confessions from prisoners, after he accepted responsibility [JURIST report] for the deaths of 12,000 Cambodians in the S-21 prison camp [backgrounder]. Kaing's trial is the first of eight [JURIST report] that the ECCC hopes to hear against former members of the Khmer Rouge, which has been accused of murdering 1.7 million Cambodians during its nearly four-year reign. The ECCC has long been plagued with accusations of corruption and inadequate funding, with greater problems in recent years. Last month, Japan agreed to donate $4 million to the tribunal after the ECCC reported in March that it would be unable to pay its Cambodian employees for that month, one year after the court had requested $114 million dollars from the UN [JURIST report]. In February, Human Rights Watch warned that the ECCC trials were in danger of being tainted for their failure to follow fair trial standards [JURIST report], and in January a Cambodian court agreed to hear a corruption case [JURIST report] involving two ECCC judges.