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Khmer Rouge tribunal dogged by government interference: HRW

Khmer Rouge tribunal dogged by government interference: HRW

090107_03_1.jpg
090107_03_1.jpg

Rights group slams government for obstructing war crimes court, as celebrations to commemorate fall of Khmer Rouge begin

Photo by: TRACEY SHELTON

Court spokeswoman Helen Jarvis shown here in a file photo.

ON the eve of today's 30th anniversary of the fall of the Khmer Rouge, Human Rights Watch released a report condemning the progress of the United Nations-backed war crimes court and accusing the government of obstructing its procedures.

"After 30 years, no one had been tried, convicted or sentenced for the crimes of one of the bloodiest regimes of the 20th century," said Brian Adams, Asia director of the New York-based human rights watchdog group, in a statement released Tuesday.

"[For] the past decade Hun Sen had done his best to thwart justice," he added.  

The comments came a day ahead of the celebrations organised by the ruling Cambodian People's Party to mark three decades since the day in 1979 when Vietnamese-led forces drove the Khmer Rouge out of the capital.

The statement called both the design and practices of the court "deeply flawed", especially by allowing for disproportionate involvement of the Cambodian judiciary, which, it noted, the UN has described as lacking independence, competence and professionalism. It also cited reports of rampant job-selling among the court's Cambodian staff.

Spread your wings

The rights group criticised the insistence of Cambodian Co-prosecutor Chea Leang on restricting the number of suspects investigated by the court to the five Khmer Rouge leaders currently detained.

In the first public announcement of her reasoning against the proposal of her international counterpart, Robert Petit, to expand the docket, Chea Leang said in a statement Monday that such a move would contradict the original mandate of the tribunal, overstretch its duration and budget, and undermine national stability and reconciliation.

But observers have said blocking the second set of prosecutions could exacerbate allegations that the co-prosecutor is acting at the behest of the Cambodian government.

Helen Jarvis, the international spokeswoman for the hybrid court, would not comment on the specific arguments made in the report, but said: "We take seriously comments from the public and any group, and we take what they say into account."

The report also said that "the impunity enjoyed by the Khmer Rouge has been matched" by successive regimes, citing the implication of Hun Sen's bodyguard unit in the 1997 grenade attack on an opposition political rally that yielded no response from the courts. 

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