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First Khmer Rouge trial will kick off in March: court official

First Khmer Rouge trial will kick off in March: court official

090108_3_1.jpg
090108_3_1.jpg

The official date for the trial of the former head of Tuol Sleng prison, Kaing Guek Eav, will be determined in the coming weeks

Photo by: TRACEY SHELTON

Co-prosecutor Robert Petit confirmed Wednesday the first trial would begin March.

AS thousands of Cambodians congregated Wednesday in the capital to mark the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Khmer Rouge, officials at the country's war crimes tribunal made public for the first time an expected date for the commencement of the court's first trial. 

The international co-prosecutor at the court, Robert Petit, told the Post Wednesday that he expects the first trial, that of former cadre and S-21 chief Kaing Guek Eav, to begin "some time in March", with an official date becoming clearer after a trial management meeting on January 15 and 16.

Kaing Guek Eav, who is known by his communist name Duch, has been held in pre-trial detention since his arrest in 1998. He is the only one of five suspects currently held at the court's detention facilities to be formally indicted into the court, which has been in operation now for three years.

After 30 years, no one had been tried, convicted or

sentenced.

According to Petit, the management meeting would be confidential and would focus on "practical issues on how the hearing can and cannot be conducted".

Initial hearing February  

Court spokeswoman Helen Jarvis added that it would consider how many witnesses would be called and would prepare for an initial hearing expected in February.

The hybrid court, which has been heavily criticised for delaying the trials of the five suspects through financial mismanagement and internal disputes, is also suffering from a standstill between international and national prosecutors over whether to investigate more suspects. 

Delays have been of particular distress to victims, who see the age and ailing health of the suspects (all, except Duch, in their 70s) the greatest risk to justice not being achieved.

International NGO group Human Rights Watch criticised the government for politically interfering in the court's legal procedures on the eve of Wednesday's celebrations.

"After 30 years, no one had been tried, convicted or sentenced for the crimes of one of the bloodiest regimes of the 20th century," the group said in a statement.

But Jarvis said Wednesday that she did not see any reason for further delays. 

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