Monday, December 12, 2005

Khmer Rouge trials move a big step closer

Saturday, 10 December 2005

PHNOM PENH: Genocide trials of Khmer Rouge leaders responsible for an estimated 1.7 million deaths moved a big step closer yesterday as Cambodia and the United Nations said they will set up offices next month to prepare them.

A shortlist of Cambodian and international judges and prosecutors to conduct the trials would be announced this month, Sean Visoth, who will head the Cambodian team, told a joint news conference with UN official Michelle Lee.

"Mrs Lee will come back and we will have her office of administration fully operational in January 2006," he said.

The tribunals, which will have international judges and prosecutors working alongside Cambodian colleagues, are estimated to cost $56 million over three years.

"We have been working very hard in this process and we are very hopeful that we will be on the ground operating by either the end of January or the beginning of February," said Mrs Lee.

"We are even more hopeful that the Cambodian people will see this as progress toward achieving the justice which is really long overdue," she said.

An estimated one third of the country's population died of starvation, forced labour, disease or execution during the Khmer Rouge "Killing Fields" from 1975 to 1979, when the regime was toppled by Vietnamese troops.

But no Khmer Rouge leader has faced justice for the atrocities yet and critics fear that many of them will die before the legal process ends.

Two Khmer Rouge leaders have been detained - Ta Mok, the one-legged Khmer Rouge military chief who is now 78, and Duch, 59, the head of the Tuol Sleng interrogation centre from which few prisoners emerged alive. Duch's real name is Kang Kek Ieu.

They were charged in March with war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity during the regime led by "Brother Number One" Pol Pot, who died in 1998.

But other leaders, "Brother Number Two" Nuon Chea, former head of state Khieu Samphan and former Foreign Minister Ieng Sary are living free in Cambodia.


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