UN approves agreement with Cambodia to prosecute former Khmer Rouge leaders

13 May 2003

The United Nations today approved a plan to create special courts to try former leaders of Cambodia's Khmer Rouge regime.

The 191-member General Assembly adopted by consensus a resolution containing the draft agreement between the world body and Cambodia concerning the prosecution - under Cambodian law - of crimes committed during the period of Democratic Kampuchea. The Assembly also decided to fund the trials through voluntary contributions rather than via the regular UN budget.

The 32-article 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 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 resolution adopted today 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." The Assembly also appeals to the international community to provide assistance, including financial and personnel support, to the Extraordinary Chambers.

The Secretary-General had warned that in a report that "the opportunity of bringing those responsible to justice might be lost" if the courts were funded by voluntary contributions rather than through regular UN dues payments. And while diplomats earlier this month hailed the plan's consensus approval by the Assembly's Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Committee, which deals with human rights issues, they too warned that justice could yet be denied if governments failed to contribute generously to the courts' operation.