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HRW chides KR tribunal

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090216_02.jpg

‘Political interference' marring court in final run-up to inaugural trial hearing, according to Human Rights Watch.

Photo by:
AFP 

Tourists look at portraits of former security guards of Tuol Sleng prison, displayed at the genocide museum.

THE Khmer Rouge tribunal has received its second bout of criticism from a global monitoring group just days before the start of its first trial.

International watchdog Human Rights Watch has urged the forthcoming trials at the Khmer Rouge tribunal to "resist political interference and meet international fair trial standards", or risk its credibility.

"Any hint of political manipulation at the tribunal will undermine its credibility with the Cambodian people," Sara Colm, Cambodia-based senior researcher said in a press statement released Saturday.

The New York-based group has previously accused the UN-backed court of allowing political considerations to block additional indictments and says the court's independence remains a concern as the first trial gets set to begin.

"The tribunal cannot bring justice to the millions of the Khmer Rouge's victims if it tries only a handful of the most notorious individuals, while scores of former Khmer Rouge officials remain free," she added.

The group is the second international monitoring organisation to scrutinise the tribunal in the week before it opens.

A report released Thursday by the Open Society Justice Initiative blasted the court for beginning trials while "grave flaws", including possibly serious corruption allegations, remain unaddressed.

Human Rights Watch released a report last month condemning the progress of the war crimes court and accusing the government of obstructing its procedures.

Government interference has been feared by observers since international co-prosecutor Robert Petit filed a formal statement of disagreement to the pretrial chamber over the issue.

Petit has publicly expressed the need to carry out further investigations in order to meet the court's mandate of prosecuting "those most responsible" for events occurring under the 1975-79 regime.

Please, those who love justice, let justice be decided by the judges.

However, Chea Leang, his Cambodian counterpart, has argued that this could affect political stability.

As senior members of the current CPP government held similar positions under the Khmer Rouge regime, observers have claimed there is an understandable reluctance on the part of the government to allow further investigations to proceed.

But with a trial beginning on Tuesday after years of delays, public affairs officer Helen Jarvis said she would prefer people to focus on the trial, which will be an important historical event, rather than on "observations from the sidelines".

 "When the trial begins, it will show how ready and well-equipped the court is to meeting international standards," she added.

Court spokesman Reach Sambath added that the criticism went against the spirit of the trials.

"We work hard every day to bring justice to the Cambodian people and the victims of the Khmer Rouge regime," he said.

"Please, those who love justice, let justice be decided by the judges."

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