Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Asian rights group doubts credibility of some Cambodia judges on Khmer Rouge tribunal

[JURIST] Legal experts with the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) [advocacy website] have questioned the credibility of some of the Cambodian judges [AHRC statement] who have been approved to serve on a war crimes tribunal that will hear cases against former Khmer Rouge [Wikipedia backgrounder] leaders accused of genocide and crimes against humanity. Earlier this month, King Norodom Sihamoni [official profile; BBC profile] approved a list of 30 officials selected by Cambodia's Supreme Council of Magistracy to serve as judges and prosecutors [JURIST report] on the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia [KRT task force website; backgrounder], the joint Cambodia-UN tribunal. The jurists are from Cambodia, Australia, Austria, Canada, France, Japan, Poland, Sri Lanka, the Netherlands, and the US. While many of the foreign officials have impressive resumes including several degrees and years of experience, the credentials of the Cambodian jurists seem to pale in comparison, according to the Hong Kong-based rights group.

Critics have expressed concern over the reputations of Cambodian judges which indicate a tendency to decide cases based on the government's political agenda, especially since many of the judges received their law degrees in the former Soviet communist bloc where impartiality was often sacrificed in judicial decisions. Earlier this month, visiting UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louis Arbour stressed the importance of greater independence for members of the Cambodian judiciary [JURIST report]. The war crimes tribunal is expected to begin trying cases early next year after the United Nations [official website] urged a timely trial calendar [JURIST report] to begin proceedings for the deaths of 1.7 million people during the communist regime's rule from 1975-1979. AP has more.


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