Monday, May 01, 2006

Top CPP official suggests politically charged dates for trial

MAY 22, 2006

The Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) has suggested that the trials of former Khmer Rouge leaders begin on politically charged dates in December or January, a CPP official announced May 16, newspapers reported the next day.

"The national leadership and the CPP agree to insist that the Extraordinary Chambers open hearings on January 7, the day the country was liberated from the Democratic Kampuchea government," said CPP Central Committee member Cheam Yeap, Cambodge Soir reported.

Cheam Yeap, who also serves as president of the National Assembly’s finance commission, said that another possible date is December 2, because that date marks the inception of the national united front led by CPP Honorary President Heng Samrin that toppled the genocidal regime, according to the newspaper.

"The two dates are historical and very important days to remember," Cheam Yeap said, Cambodge Soir reported. He said he was optimistic that the upcoming trials will prevent any reoccurrence of what happened between 1975 and 1979 and appease the souls of those killed.

Khmer Rouge leaders are believed to have killed nearly 2 million people through execution, starvation and excessive labor during their nearly four-year reign, according to news archives.

Cheap Yeap said that he and other CPP leaders were only suggesting what dates to start the trials, adding that only the tribunal will decide when the process can begin, Rasmei Kampuchea reported.

But he said that if the government proposed January 7, the proposal would likely be accepted, stressing that Prime Minister Hun Sen initiated the establishment of the UN-backed tribunal, the newspaper reported.

Tribunal spokesman Reach Sambath said on May 16 that a specific date to begin the trials cannot be set in advance because the process depends on the progress of the investigating judges, Rasmei Kampuchea reported.

Tribunal officials have said that trials could begin sometime in 2007.

Thirty Cambodian and international judges and prosecutors who have officially been appointed to the court are expected to start work in the next few weeks, but some of the Cambodian appointees said on May 16 that they need more training to be ready for the trials, according to The Cambodia Daily.

Tribunal reserve co-prosecutor Chuon Sun Leng attended a public discussion in Phnom Penh organized by the Open Society Justice Initiative, where he said that he and his colleagues do not know basic procedures to conduct investigations although they have undergone some UN training, the newspaper reported.

"The number of victims are in the millions, how will the cases be compiled? Will the government order the judicial police to do the investigations?" he asked, adding that he has not been informed about when he would be trained in the necessary judicial procedures, The Cambodia Daily reported.


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