Monday, May 08, 2006

ANNOUNCEMENT OF JUDGES IS MAJOR ADVANCE FOR KHMER ROUGE TRIBUNAL, BUT UNMET NEEDS REMAIN

Contact: David Berry: +1 212 548 0385 (New York)

New York, May 4, 2006-The appointment of judges and prosecutors to the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (EC) is a major step toward establishing the court that will try the architects of Cambodia's "killing fields," the Open Society Justice Initiative said today. Policies pursued by Khmer Rouge senior leaders and others most responsible for the carnage between 1975 and 1979 claimed the lives of an estimated two million Cambodians.

"These appointments give hope that justice will be done in Cambodia," said James A. Goldston, executive director of the Open Society Justice Initiative. "However, the opaque nature of the Cambodian government's selection process is a cause for concern. The court still has many needs-from translation services to criminal investigators-before the Cambodian people can be assured of seeing justice after nearly 30 years of waiting."

As a hybrid tribunal, the EC will be staffed by both international and Cambodian judges, investigating judges and prosecutors.

Cambodia's Supreme Council of the Magistracy-a national body responsible for all judicial and prosecutorial appointments-drew the international appointees announced today from a list of nominees provided by the United Nations Secretary-General.

The EC's international personnel emerged from an open UN process that included input from civil society organizations. The Cambodian personnel announced today, however, were appointed by the Supreme Council of the Magistracy in a manner that did not engage either the UN or civil society. The Supreme Council was not legally required to consult the UN in filling the Cambodian posts.

"The selection process wasn't ideal because it did not encourage outside input or public investment," said Dr. Kelly Dawn Askin, senior legal officer at the Justice Initiative and a leading expert on the EC. "But now that we know who will be presiding over the trial, we can move forward in addressing the EC's other needs."

The Justice Initiative noted that physical improvements to the court's premises in Phnom Penh are a critical prerequisite for the judges and prosecutors to start work. Currently, the EC lacks regular electrical power, reliable phone and email service, and physical security measures.

The Justice Initiative today released a memorandum identifying 11 needs that must be addressed for the EC to function efficiently and fairly, including: funding for the training of judges; the protection of, and psychological support for, victims and witnesses; outreach activities to keep Cambodians informed of the court's work; and the development of internal regulations based in Cambodian procedural law and consistent with fair trial guarantees. The full document can be found at: http://www.justiceinitiative.org/db/resource2?res_id=103193

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