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Plan for Khmer Rouge tribunal advances through UN committee

Plan for Khmer Rouge tribunal advances through UN committee

A key United Nations committee today approved draft plans paving the way for the world body and the Cambodian Government to set up a war crimes court to try the former leaders of the Khmer Rouge.

Under a unanimously approved draft resolution on the "Khmer Rouge trials," the UN's social and humanitarian committee would have the General Assembly approve the draft agreement between the UN and Cambodia concerning the prosecution, under Cambodian law, of crimes committed during the period of Democratic Kampuchea. The 32-article draft agreement is annexed to the main resolution.

The resolution urges UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the Cambodian Government to "take all measures to allow the agreement to enter into force and be fully implemented." It would also have the Assembly decide that the court will be funded by voluntary contributions, and includes an appeal for international assistance, including financial and personnel support for "prosecuting those most responsible for crimes and serious violations of Cambodian and international law between 17 April 1975 and 6 January 1979."

Once adopted by the 191-member Assembly, the draft plan would create "Extraordinary Chambers," comprising one trial court and one Supreme Court within the existing national court structure of Cambodia, and contain a mix of international and Cambodian judges. According to the plan - which stresses the impartiality and independence of the prospective jurists - decisions in the two chambers would be taken by majority of four judges and five judges, respectively.

The draft plan also sets out the duties of the prosecutors and investigating judges, rules of procedure, defendants' rights and procedures governing witness and expert testimony. With respect to amnesty, the plan states that "the Royal Government of Cambodia would undertake not to request one for any persons who might be investigated or convicted of crimes under the agreement."

The draft plan was introduced to the Committee yesterday along with the Secretary-General's recent report and a statement on financial and budgetary concerns. Mr. Annan has estimated that start-up costs to exceed some $19 million.