Judge resigns from Cambodia's troubled Khmer Rouge trials - the 4th to quit so far

Journalists work next to a TV screen broadcasting the live feed of former Khmer Rouge leader Nuon Chea's trial, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on July 2, 2015. US judge Mark Harmon resigned from the UN-backed war crimes trials in Cambodia on Tuesday, July
Journalists work next to a TV screen broadcasting the live feed of former Khmer Rouge leader Nuon Chea's trial, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on July 2, 2015. US judge Mark Harmon resigned from the UN-backed war crimes trials in Cambodia on Tuesday, July 7.PHOTO: EPA

PHNOM PENH (Reuters) - An international judge announced his resignation from the United Nations-backed war crimes trials in Cambodia on Tuesday, the fourth to quit so far and another blow for the troubled tribunal probing the atrocities of the 1970s Khmer Rouge regime.

Judge Mark Harmon, from the United States, said in a statement his reasons for stepping down after three years in Phnom Penh were "strictly personal" and "with considerable regret". He did not elaborate.

Several of Judge Harmon's predecessors at the hybrid United Nations-Cambodian court have alleged political interference and a lack of cooperation by Cambodia's government, which contains remnants of the Khmer Rouge regime.

Prime Minister Hun Sen, a former Khmer Rouge soldier, has warned more trials could cause anarchy and a return to civil war. He has promised to thwart new indictments and once said he would be happy if the UN packed up and left.

The decade-old tribunal has so far delivered verdicts involving three high-profile leaders from the 1975-1979 "killing fields" era. Attempts to pursue more cases have been met by strong government resistance.

The Cambodian police have refused to act on an arrest warrant Judge Harmon has issued for Meas Muth, a former navy chief alleged to have sent detainees to a torture centre where some 14,000 people died.

Court spokesman Lars Olsen said Judge Harmon's resignation was unrelated to any development in cases he was working on. Judge Harmon would continue his role until his replacement was sworn in.