Friday, May 19, 2006

Officials confident Khmer Rouge tribunal 'just weeks away'

ABC Asia Pacific TV / Radio Australia

After years of bitter negotiations Cambodian and United Nation (UN) officials are confident a tribunal to prosecute former Khmer Rouge leaders is weeks away from starting.

Tribunal spokesperson, Helen Jarvis, says with the appointments of the judicial officers, any doubts over the tribunal's start have been dispelled.

Cambodia's highest legal body appointed 17 Cambodian and 13 foreign court officials to the joint UN-Cambodian tribunal earlier this month, completing the final step before co-prosecutors - one Cambodian and one foreign - can begin work.

The tribunal finally took shape in 2003 when Cambodia and the UN agreed a legal framework after six years of talks, primarily over funding and jurisdiction.

Money remains problematic with Cambodia still facing a $US4 million shortfall.

But Ms Jarvis says there is enough to fund at least the first two years of the tribunal, which is estimated to cost some $US56 million.

The co-prosecutors are expected to begin work in July, with the trial phase of the three-year process starting in mid-2007, more than three decades after Cambodia suffered one of the worst genocides of the 20th century.

As many as two million people died under Khmer Rouge rule which began in 1975, when its troops marched into Phnom Penh and drove the population into the countryside.


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