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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Statute of limitations may save KR heads, petition claims

Statute of limitations may save KR heads, petition claims

Apetition is in circulation which calls on provincial prosecutors to act on a direction

of the Prosecutor-General to charge and arrest former Democratic Kampuchea leaders

Khieu Samphan, Nuon Chea and Ieng Sary.

The petition, initiated by Dr Lao Mong Hay, urges prosecutors to act quickly, "since

the statute of limitations for acts committed in 1994 will expire next year and therefore

such prosecutions may not be possible in the future".

"The Extraordinary Chambers [Khmer Rouge trial] will be limited to adjudicating

crimes which occurred between 17 April 1975 and 6 January 1979, but the 'Law Outlawing

Democratic Kampuchea Clique' covers, at a minimum, acts committed after 1994,"

the petition says.

Mong Hay said the Khmer Rouge continued to commit war crimes under the UNTAC law

covering that period and the statute of limitations was 10 years from the time of

an offence.

The introduction to the 1994 law states that since the 1993 elections, the DK "have

continuously committed crimes, terrorism, and genocidal acts".

Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan defected to the government in December 1998 and at that

time Hun Sen, then Second Prime Minister, said they should not stand trial before

Cambodian courts. Ieng Sary was pardoned by the King in 1996 from his 1979 conviction

and death sentence for genocide.

The Prosecutor-General, Hangrot Raken, defended his issuing of the arrest order,

which he said was under the national law of 1994 outlawing the DK; he said it was

not a matter for the KR tribunal.

Prosecutors of the Battambang, Banteay Meanchey and Siem Reap courts declined to

carry out the Prosecutor-General's arrest order on the grounds that they needed funds,

time and authority to carry out investigations to enforce it.

Prime Minister Hun Sen has joined the debate, stating that the courts have no jurisdiction

in the matter, that only the UN-sponsored Extraordinary Chambers will have the power

to lay charges.

Mong Hay said a press release explaining the petition had been sent to major media

and foreign missions. "There is a clear disobedience of the order by the provincial

prosecutors. We support the Prosecutor-General on what is an important principle

of the law," he said. "We will continue to lobby to press our point. The

Prime Minister's intervention is an attempt to use his political power to determine

a judicial matter."

The Siem Reap prosecutor, So Vat, said he didn't refuse the order, "but I don't

have the ability to search for evidence; it is very hard to find evidence."

The Post asked the Documentation Center of Cambodia how much additional investigation

of evidence a prosecutor would need to make out a prima facie case for arrest under

current law.

Youk Chhang, the Director, replied that the center has available to the prosecutors

tens of thousands of documents, notebooks, photographs, videotapes, audiotapes, microfilm,

maps and books covering the Khmer Rouge war crimes.

"We can also provide a modest space for them to read those materials,"

Youk said.

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