Cambodia clears path for tribunal, U.N. says
By Phelim Kyne
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia -- A United Nations official has announced that Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen Prime had assured him that long-delayed plans to form a Khmer Rouge tribunal would be accelerated.
At the end of a six-day visit, Peter Leuprecht, told reporters that Hun Sen had informed him that bureaucratic hurdles blocking the passage of a law allowing the formation of a tribunal had been resolved.
"The Khmer Rouge draft law has gone to parliament . . . [after which] it should be ready to signed [into law] by the King," Leuprecht said.
"I was encouraged to hear from Prime Minister Hun Sen that the tribunal will be able to operate free of interference and independently."
Leuprecht is the Canada-based Special Representative of the Cambodian Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. Hun Sen had told reporters in Tokyo on June 13 that a tribunal could be functional by as early as December. Efforts to create a controversial "mixed tribunal" of Cambodian and international jurists to prosecute the former top leaders of the Khmer Rouge stalled in February because of objections to the law's references to the death penalty, which is prohibited in Cambodia.
The United Nations has been critical of both the delays and Hun Senšs repeated insistence that former Khmer Rouge Foreign Minister Ieng Sary be exempt from prosecution.
Leuprecht specifically outlined the UNšs concerns about the potential for political influence on Cambodian judges and prosecutors chosen to participate in the tribunal.
"Neither the King, the Prime Minister nor anyone else should try to interfere in who should be tried," Leuprecht said.
"When the tribunal gets into operation it will be up to the prosecutors to see who will be tried."
Doubts about the capabilities of the Cambodian judiciary, which is universally described as incompetent, corrupt and subject to political influence, were also raised by Leuprecht.
"To be very fair, I believe it will be much more difficult to find competent and independent Cambodian judges than competent and independent international judges," Leuprecht said.
"If asked to design a tribunal I would not have designed this one, but wešll have to live with it."
The "mixed tribunal" formula is designed to prosecute the top Khmer Rouge leaders and "those most responsible" for the deaths of approximately 1.7 million Cambodians between 1975-1979 by execution, starvation and overwork.
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