Up To 8 Khmer Rouge Defendants Will Face Trial

Posted by khmernews on February 25, 2008

The US Associated Press reported Wednesday that Cambodia’s genocide tribunal expects to try up to 8 suspects over the Khmer Rouge’s brutal rule, while seeking to nearly double its staffing levels to 530 according the document with the revised budget estimate – presented to donor nations in New York last month – was obtained recently by The Associated Press.
The five former Khmer Rouge leaders being detained include Nuon Chea, Khieu Samphan, Ieng Sary, Ieng Thirith and Kaing Guek Eav, a.k.a Duch. However, the documents the AP received claimed that there will be up to 8 defendants, with 3 other unidentified suspects.
Concerning the budgetary proposal, Documentation Center of Cambodia Director Youk Chhang predicted that the donor nations will not agree easily with the budget of $170 million the Khmer Rouge tribunal requested since at present there are many crises and international courts in other places to pay attention to.

What reasons does Cambodia have for the request of $170 million to try only 8 people?
“The tribunal will have to explain clearly what kind of reforms they are undertaking with regards to administration and why they have chosen a budget like this,” said Tom Barthel Hansen, a Danish Embassy official. He said it was not yet clear how his government would respond to the new request. Denmark has contributed about $500,000 to the original budget of $56.3 million.

In 2004, Steven Heder wrote in his book that at least 7 people would be tried. Those candidates for the trial include two former Khmer Rouge commanders, Sou Met and Meas Muth.

In a research paper published in April 2006, Steven Heder, who is currently working for the Khmer Rouge tribunal, wrote that there should be at least 10 former senior Khmer Rouge leaders and 50 people most responsible brought to justice.

However, Khmer Rouge tribunal Spokesman Reach Sambath claimed that the number and the identities of the former Khmer Rouge leaders to face trial could not be determined yet, but that the tribunal would conform to the law which tries only the senior Khmer Rouge leaders and those most responsible.

According to the new budget plan, the Khmer Rouge tribunal will spend up to $170 million and continue through 2011.

Besides the detention of the five former Democratic Kampuchea leaders and the appeal hearings by the suspects against their provisional detention, the trial of the crimes of mass killings of an estimated 1.7 million people committed between 1975 and 1979 has yet to be held.

Some legal experts and lawyers have alleged that the delay might be caused by the Cambodian government, who intentionally wants to stall the process for political interests. Some have directly criticised the Khmer Rouge tribunal, which employs the international standards.  “Up to now, only the controversy over the detention has lasted for more than 10 years while the investigation is also complicated,” criticised People’s Representative Son Chhay, adding that there was also lack of funds.

Director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia (DC-Cam), which has collected documents and evidence of the 1975-1979 Khmer Rouge regime for 10 years for the special tribunal, claims that “evidence” is not a problem for the court. “For the Cambodian side, corruption has always been the case which creates obstacles to block the process of the trial. For the UN side, problems such as bureaucracy, expanded work, and delay have become the norm in every international court,” criticised Youk Chhang, director of DC-Cam. He said that the DC-Cam has given the Khmer Rouge tribunal 30,000 pages of evidential documents that the court can use them officially.

Lao Monghay, senior researcher of the Hong Kong-based Asian Human Rights Commission, acknowledges that the practice of the legal procedure does take a long time in a court which employs the international standards. However, he blames…..some countries such as China and Vietnam, which stayed behind the Khmer Rouge regime before and after 1979.

“The conflict between the Khmer Rouge and Vietnam might have created “spies”. The charged people such as Ieng Sary, Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan might have known about the presence of those Vietnamese spies or agents in Cambodia,” said Lao Monghay.

Lao Monghay claimed that China had given a donation of $1,000 million to Democratic Kampuchea before 1979 and another $1,000 million after 1979 in order to fight against the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia. Currently, China is giving loans to Cambodia more than donations while both the donations and loans greatly influence the politics of Cambodia.

Reach Sambath, Khmer Rouge tribunal’s spokesman, has overruled the “allegations” and explained the efforts made by the Co-Investigating Judges. He claimed that the “real” trial of former Tuol Sleng Prison Chief Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, charged with crimes against humanity, will be held in June 2008.  “We cannot explain all the judicial process. We cannot tell how many people and where we have interviewed nor can we tell who they are. We can only say that we are working everyday and we have done a lot,” said Reach sambath.

Chea Leang, Cambodian Co-Prosecutor of the Khmer Rouge tribunal, claimed about the discovery of Nuon Chea’s responsibility for Democratic Kampuchea by the Co-Investigating Judges. “On April 19, 1976, Nuon Chea was appointed president of the Standing Committee of the People’s Representative Assembly. From September to October in 1976, Nuon Chea was the acting Prime Minister. Nuon Chea was appointed to be in charge of party’s actions such as social affairs, culture, military and education. Nuon Chea led the internal and “external” structures and coordinated the S-21 Security Center and other zones.

According to Reach Sambath, the Khmer Rouge tribunal will continue from 2008 through 2011 and spend up to $170 million. The original budget was $56.3 million for 3 years from 2006 to 2008.

The Khmer Rouge tribunal was established after a tough negotiation between the Cambodian government and the United Nations from 1997 [to 2006]. At first, the United Nations wanted the court to use the international court system while the Cambodian government insisted on using the national court system, which the public lacks confidence on its independence and transparency.

Eventually, the two sides agreed on employing the Cambodia’s court system with international standards of justice to try former Khmer Rouge leaders. Then, the Co-Judges and Co-Prosecutors started their work in the middle of 2006. It cannot be said what obstacles the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia is going to face next since it has so far gone through many of them.

The obstacles the Khmer Rouge tribunal has already faced include the disagreement on the Internal Rules between Cambodian side and the UN side, the admission fee of the Cambodian Bar Association, the denial of Nuon Chea’s defence lawyer, Victor Koppe, to represent his client in the appeal hearing on February 4, 2008, and the presence of the civil parties in the hearings of Nuon Chea, which has made the Pre-Trial Chamber spend a lot of time to discuss the legality of the presence of those civil parties or victims.

Unofficial Translation
-Extracted from Samleng Yuvachun Khmer, vol. 15, #3248, Friday, February 15, 2008.


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