He ended up leaving a few weeks after many of his staff quit and for a while there it felt like the end of times at the International Co-Investigating Judge’s Office. But, through the regular motions of a garden variety Ragnarok the world was rebuilt and the vacancy left by Judge Blunk was filled by Judge Laurent Kasper Ansermet. But, was it rebuilt into a brave new world? This depends on the perspective. On the one hand, Judge Ansermet appears to have taken the cue from his predecessor and is intent on doing the exact opposite. This on some level makes sense as Judge Blunk resigned due to being attacked from every quarter of civil society (most attackers never served a day in the civil service leave alone in the UN so it would be fair to note that most of them had no idea what formidable forces Blunk was up against; but Blunk’s actions could not be given the benefit of the doubt because no one was that gullible and so the house of cards he was building did not just fold but went up in flames). The only way Ansermet will be given a less favorable treatment by the watchdogs will be if he does things differently. On the other hand, Judge Ansermet seems to have trouble reading the law (or at least what passes as law under the shingle of the Internal Rules (IRs)).
While things shifted on the international side of the CIJs’ domain, they have doubtless stayed the same on its Cambodian side. The UN Legal Counsel Patricia O’Brien’s visit to Cambodia to put out the fire was interpreted by her and the Cambodian government very differently with O’Brien claiming that she had impressed it on the Cambodian government that the ECCC process was not to be interfered with and the Cambodian government arguing that O’Brien deferred to the Cambodian authorities on cases 003 and 004 (reading their press releases one might wonder if O’Brien and the Cambodian government attended the same meeting).
In this environment, Judge Ansermet decided to brief the press on the developments in 003 and 004 to kick off the new year. He picked an interesting time to do so – the day when his Cambodian counterpart had a compensatory day off for Victory over the Genocide Day. Ansermet’s Cambodian counterpart, You Bunleng, interrupted his day of rest to lash at his international colleague. The English translation of Judge You’s press release translated into more precise English, essentially, says that Judge Ansermet had no right to act alone under Rule 56 of the Internal Rules (IRs) which governs this specific type of situation. Judge You could have stopped there but his indignation with the action of his international counterpart would not let him and went on to make it personal by attacking Ansermet’s professional ethics. Judge Ansermet replied, essentially, pointing the finger for not releasing information relevant to Case 003 and 004 at Judge You and diverting the heat from himself. Not good. Not a good start. Particularly not considering the fact that Judge You happens to be right: R. 56 is screaming the word ‘jointly’ and Judge Ansermet clearly tried to turn what was supposed to be a tango into a … whatever people dance alone. While people get over professional disagreements fairly quickly and fairly easily, once personal attacks are launched, there is simply nowhere to go. This is particularly true in Cambodia.
Now that the gauntlet has been thrown, Judge Ansermet is likely to continue presenting himself as Siegfried (the name has been somewhat discredited by his predecessor but let’s see if he can bring it back) and try to paint a picture of Judge You as von Rothbart of this Swan Lake.
One of the comedic parts of this is that someone involved in the IR drafting process knew something like this would inevitably happen which is why R 38 was written in a way that in simple language says “no, we are not going to get you a babysitter; you are of equal stature, figure out how to get along on your own” (in the legal language this is represented by “disagreement between the Co-Investigating Judges regarding matters referred to in sub-rule 2 above shall not be submitted to the procedure for settlement of disagreements set out in Rule 72”). Getting along will not be easy, however, if at all possible. If Judge Ansermet decides to reverse the non-suit order in Case 003 and move investigations along in both Case 003 and Case 004, the PTC will have its hands full and things will get very, very interesting and very, very soon.