Khmer Rouge Trial Might Not Be Able To Begin in June 2008

Posted by khmernews on February 22, 2008

Keout Samrach

Observers of the Khmer Rouge tribunal have voiced their concerns that the first trial of former Khmer Rouge leaders might not be able to start in June 2008 as scheduled. The concerns came after Nuon Chea’s February 4 hearing was adjourned.
In the morning hearing on February 4, 2008, Nuon Chea, former president of the National Assembly and Brother Number 2 of the Khmer Rouge regime, said, “I would like to show my respect to the president of Pre-Trial Chamber of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia. I, Nuon Chea, the accused, would like to ask why the today’s hearing should be held if I have only one Cambodian co-lawyer. It is not consistent with the international standards. Therefore, I think that it is not fair. I need two lawyers in accordance with the Internal Rules of the court. If there is only one lawyer without the foreign one, he cannot defend me. Now, I would like to request the court to postpone the hearing. Thank you.”

With regard of the adjournment of the hearing on Febraury 4, 2008, ECCC Co-Prosecutor Chea Leang claimed that the request for the postponement was appropriate to respect the accused’s right. “The hearing, as you all know, has been adjourned in accordance with proceedings because of the letter from [Nuon Chea’s] national lawyer who requested for the delay. ….And after we expressed our opinion to the Pre-Trial Chamber, the accused request for the delay himself. Therefore, we think that it is appropriate and we respect the rights of the accused as stated in the law,” said Chea Leang.

Many groups have estimated that the tribunal’s planned upcoming hearings in June could be delayed further since both the UN and Cambodian sides seem not to have willingness to make it possible. Meanwhile, Cambodian side will run out of fund in April while the UN side at the end of 2008.

Khmer Rouge leaders have been condemned for crimes of the mass killings of an estimated 1.7 million Cambodians during their reign of terror from April 17, 1975 to early January 1979, when thousands of Vietnamese troops invaded Cambodia. At present, five senior leaders and those most responsible for the Khmer Rouge regime are being detained at the special tribunal’s detention facility awaiting trial of crimes against humanity and war crimes.

The five figures include Nuon Chea, former President of the National Assembly and Brother Number Two, Khieu Samphan, former President of the State Presidium, Ieng Sary, deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Ieng Thirith, former Social Actions Minister, and Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, former director of Tuol Sleng prison.

Meas Muth, Ta Mok’s son-in-law, who is residing in Somlot, has told journalists that he is ready to testify if the Khmer Rouge tribunal needs him.

So far, the Khmer Rouge tribunal is worriedly facing a serious budgetary shortfall. Only in the $56.3 million budget plan, Cambodian side still lacks $4.9 million while the UN is $3.2 million short. The US government has not decided to fund the Khmer Rouge tribunal yet while its ministry of foreign affairs is carefully scrutinizing the quality of the tribunal. Moreover, [the US said that] the US would not donate money to the tribunal unless it had made a reform and addressed the alleged corruption first.

Meanwhile, analysts say that the Khmer Rouge tribunal could be extended through 2010 and spend up to approximately $150 million. However, the major concern is that the alleged corruption has made the Khmer Rouge tribunal infamous and the national and international communities lose faith in the tribunal. Worse, Cambodian Bar Association, directed by Ky Tech, is always creating obstacles one after another.

National and international communities want the trial of former Khmer Rouge leaders to get underway as soon as possible to reveal the masterminds of the Khmer Rouge regime and reasons for the mass murder during the Khmer Rouge’s reign of terror. If the trial is still delayed, those [ageing] Khmer Rouge leaders might die before the trial takes place and all the mysteries will be buried with them.

However, some national and international observers have estimated that the trial of former Khmer Rouge leaders might not be able to take off in June 2008 as planned. Only the appeal hearing of Nuon Chea against his provisional detention has been very complicated. How about the real Khmer Rouge trial? It will face impediments and be delayed with various excuses.

Unofficial Translation
-Extracted from Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol. 15, #3383, Wednesday-Sunday, February 6-11, 2008.


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