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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Lack of genocide law may snag trial

Lack of genocide law may snag trial

PLANS to charge Khmer Rouge leaders Khieu Samphan, Nuon Chea and Ta Mok with genocide

could founder on a technicality, say legal experts.

They contend the defense has a strong argument against the charge: there is no law

on which to base it.

The government has maintained that its adherence to the Convention for the Prevention

and Punishment of Genocide in 1950 provides a legal basis for charges, even though

there is no domestic law against genocide.

However, the language of the Convention expressly requires that signatory countries

enact "the necessary legislation to give effect to the provisions of the present

Convention and, in particular, to provide effective penalties for persons guilty

of genocide. . ."

Thus, said one legal and human rights expert, Cambodia hasn't fulfilled its obligations

under the Convention.

And without a domestic law with enforcement provisions, a charge of genocide could

be refuted by the defense as lacking legal grounds.

Even if the National Assembly hurriedly passes a law defining genocide and its penalties,

the defense could still try to argue the definitions and penalties postdate the crimes

and therefore cannot apply - though lawyers said this was a weaker argument.

Meanwhile Nuon Paet, the former Khmer Rouge general accused of killing three foreigners

abducted from a train in 1994, would be in court in a matter of days said an official

at the Municipal Court.

An investigating judge of the Municipal court who asked for anonymity said that he

had ended his investigation in early April and had now forwarded all documents to

the trial judge.

"I asked Nuon Paet twice [and] he denied that he killed the trio," he said.

"On the contrary, Paet said he was the one who helped supply medicines to them."

The trial judge - Boninh Bunary - said that she had received the file but

there needed to be a few procedural changes made, after which the case could be heard.

But Bunary was not able to specify a definite trial date.

And in addition to the criminal charges against Paet he might also face civil charges.

Secretary of State of Justice, Ly Vuoch Leng, said the victims' families could file

a suit for compensation but had not done so yet.

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