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Should the United Nations withdraw from the KRT?


Dear Editor,

In November, 2008, a bold exercise of prosecutorial discretion set loose a thorn that has slowly but steadily prodded every cog in the complex mechanism that runs the Khmer Rouge tribunal.

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The results continue to fascinate, like a thriller published chapter by chapter on the front pages of the papers.

Politics, intrigue, corruption, history, emotion, idealism: it’s all there, oozing from the cuts left by the uncomfortable reality of cases 003 and 004.

Some have decided that if they ignore it, it will eventually go away. Others keep fighting to make sure it never does.

No one knows when or how it will end.

Recent revelations by the Reserve International Co-Investigating Judge are troubling, but in more ways than just the politically motivated alignment they allege to expose.

Perhaps more frightening is the implicit confirmation that the experimental structure of the ECCC is on the brink of failure.

So much time, effort and money has been spent trying to make it work, and the fact it doesn’t is a difficult pill to swallow.

Now the most difficult question: what shall we do about it?

The government has made its position clear; it doesn’t see any problems with the ECCC.

The UN is concerned, and there is talk of its withdrawal.

At first glance, a withdrawal seems a noble act of defiance, a principled refusal to apply the stamp of international legitimacy to a process marred by political scandal.

But consider the likely consequences.

The government has been frank about its views on which four people embody the sum of responsibility for the pain and suffering during the Khmer Rouge reign.

If the UN withdraws, Case 002 will almost certainly go on.

The remaining judges will have less to disagree on. The proceedings will be cheaper and more expeditious.

But will the accused retain their rights and be judged in fairness? Will the victims be satisfied with a verdict without the truth-seeking process?

Who stands to gain, and lose, from such a move?

Those advocating UN withdrawal should entertain these questions, especially if they claim to promote human rights. 

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