Cambodia: Progress in Khmer Rouge trials but ‘major issues’ remain: UN spokesman

26 January 2007

A judicial review committee in Cambodia, looking to resolve differences that have stalled the long-awaited trials of former Khmer Rouge leaders, accused of mass killings and other horrific crimes during the 1970s, has made progress over the last two weeks but several “major issues” still need to be resolved, a United Nations spokesman said today.

The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) Review Committee concluded its two-week session in the capital Phnom Penh earlier today, on the draft Internal Rules for the court, Farhan Haq told reporters in New York. The UN is funding most of the $56.3 million three-year budget for the Khmer Rouge trials.

“Solid progress was made during the two-week session of the Review Committee, significantly narrowing differences on a number of issues. Nevertheless, there remain several major issues to be fully resolved,” he said.

“Such as the way in which Cambodian and international law can be integrated into the Internal Rules to ensure a transparent and fair registration process and full rights of audience for foreign defence counsel,” he added. A further meeting of the Review Committee is scheduled for March.

In a press release from Phnom Penh, the Review Committee said it was “acutely aware of the urgent need to ensure fair and open trials for the benefit of the Cambodian people,” adding that it was “committed to achieving that goal” and had been working constantly since November on the various disagreements.

Judges and prosecutors for the trials were sworn in last July. Under an agreement signed by the UN and Cambodia, the trial court and a Supreme Court within the Cambodian legal system will investigate those most responsible for crimes and serious violations of Cambodian and international law between 17 April 1975 and 6 January 1979.

The UN will pay $43 million of the $56.3 million budget for the trials, with the Government of Cambodia providing $13.3 million.

At a pledging conference in 2005 to support the UN assistance to the trials, former Secretary-General Kofi Annan said that the crimes committed under Khmer Rouge rule “were of a character and scale that it was still almost impossible to comprehend,” adding that “the victims of those horrific crimes had waited too long for justice.”

 

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