Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Dame Silvia Shortlisted to Judge the Khmer Rouge

30 November 2005

Governor-General Dame Silvia Cartwright has been shortlisted for a role in the trial of Khmer Rouge war criminals.

Dame Silvia, who has 20 years' experience as a district and High Court judge, has been selected as a potential judge on the Cambodian war crimes tribunal – a role she admits would be "harrowing".

If appointed, she will still finish her term as governor-general, which ends in August 2006.

District court judges Robert Spear and Fred McElrea are also among the 12 people shortlisted for the roles.

The Khmer Rouge controlled Cambodia from 1975 till 1979. During that time, about 1.7 million people were executed or died from starvation in what became known as the Killing Fields. However, Khmer Rouge leaders were never brought to justice. Though the main leader Pol Pot died in 1998, other leaders are living comfortably in Cambodia's jungles.

Two international judges and three Cambodian judges will sit on the trial chamber. Dame Silvia is shortlisted for the two international judge positions on the trial chamber, and three international judge positions on the Supreme Court.

Sitting on the tribunal will fulfil a goal that has been pressing on her conscience since turning down a chance to try Rwandan war criminals in 1995.

"I felt then that it was something I should be doing, but I couldn't for a whole lot of reasons. It has lurked in the back of my mind ever since."

She said the role would be harrowing. "You've got to be physically and mentally strong to cope with even the things that a New Zealand judge does.

"You cannot let it get to you, otherwise you are failing the people who bring their stories before you.

"You have got to keep the trial going on an even keel, with everyone getting treated the same way.


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