The United Nations today announced it was ending negotiations with Cambodia to set up a tribunal to try former Khmer Rouge leaders, saying the court as planned would not be fair and that the Government has rejected a proposed agreement governing the assistance that the UN would provide.
“The United Nations has concluded that the proceedings of the Extraordinary Chambers would not guarantee the international standards of justice required for the United Nations to continue to work towards their establishment and have decided, with regret, to end its participation in this process,” Hans Corell, the Legal Counsel to Secretary-General Kofi Annan, told a UN news conference.
"Recognizing the stated goal of the Cambodian Government to establish the Extraordinary Chambers without delay, this decision would enable it to make other arrangements and begin this process of bringing the leaders of the Khmer Rouge to justice," he added.
The UN had been in talks with the Cambodian Government for nearly five years to set up a special court to try former Khmer Rouge leaders for genocide and crimes against humanity committed between 1975-79. In 1999, Phnom Penh rejected a proposal by Mr. Annan for an international court and instead decided to establish a national tribunal with the participation of foreign judges and prosecutors.
In explaining the UN's decision, Mr. Corell said that after a review of the entire negotiating process, the UN concluded that as currently envisaged, the Cambodian tribunal "would not guarantee the independence, impartiality and objectivity that a court established with the support the United Nations must have."
Other key obstacles, Mr. Corell said, were the Government’s refusal to accept an agreement that would have governed the UN’s involvement in the court and Phnom Penh’s unwillingness to address the Organization’s concerns about the national law that was passed last year paving the way for the tribunal.
Chief among those concerns was whether the law or an agreement between the Government and the UN would have been the controlling document over how the court was going to operate, Mr. Corell said. "It has been the United Nations consistent position that the Organization cannot be bound by a national law, in a context like this," he explained. "Therefore, the United Nations insisted throughout the negotiation, in accordance with the usual practice in concluding international agreements, that the United Nations and the Government should reach a controlling agreement."
"The United Nations shares with the Cambodian people a desire to bring the Khmer Rouge era to a close in a way that contributes to national reconciliation and justice and wishes the Government well in its efforts to reach this goal," Mr. Corell said.