Tribunal judges for Cambodia's communist Khmer Rouge war crimes victims have come under fire [EPA]

A senior judge investigating war crimes under Cambodia's former Khmer Rouge regime has resigned, citing government interference.

Siegfried Blunk, who was responsible for indicting suspects at Cambodia's UN-backed tribunal, said on Monday he had quit because of "repeated statements which will be perceived as attempted interference by government officials".

The German judge cited Cambodia's information minister as saying in May that if investigating judges wanted to probe new cases, "they should pack their bags and leave".

The UN-backed court is seeking justice for 1.7 million people who died of starvation, exhaustion, lack of medical care or torture during the communist Khmer Rouge's 1970s rule.

Judge under fire

Blunk had come under fire from rights groups for failing to fully investigate new suspects for the court.

Last week, Human Rights Watch called for Blunk and another judge, Cambodian You Bunleng, to resign for failing to conduct genuine and impartial investigations into suspects, beyond one conviction last year and four others set for trial.

The group said justice could not be obtained as long as the two judges held their jobs.

Controversy over the judge's actions began in April, when they issued a "closing order" halting further investigation into suspects cited in documents known as Case 003.

The closing order ignited criticism from several of the tribunal's UN-appointed legal staff, who complained in a private letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that the move represented a failure of justice.

The tribunal, which has faced lengthy delays throughout its history, reached its first verdict last year, sentencing former prison chief Kaing Guek Eav to 35 years in prison for war crimes, crimes against humanity and other offenses.

Source: Agencies