THE decision of whether the UN should continue negotiations with the Cambodian Government
about a future Khmer Rouge trial has been left up to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
According to sources in New York and Phnom Penh, the UN legal department under Ralph
Zacklin has asked Secretary-General Annan to determine if the world body should engage
in further discussions about a tribunal to try former leaders of the KR regime.
The Secretary-General only returned to New York from a trip abroad a few days ago
and as of Post deadline a decision had not yet been made.
The negotiations between the UN and the Cambodian government came to a deadlock last
month when both sides invited each other to join in further discussions.
Prime Minister Hun Sen rejected the proposition to send a delegation to New York,
but the UN has not yet responded to the Cambodian invitation.
Since then, diplomats and lobby groups in New York have tried to push the UN to answer
positively to the invitation.
"There are many different interests at stake in this matter," said one
"Even if Zacklin's team decide against further negotiations on a legal basis,
the political decision that the Secretary-General will make can be completely different."
Meanwhile, the KR tribunal draft law has been passed on to the National Assembly,
where the Legislative Committee is currently reviewing the text.
Today the committee will meet with government officials to discuss the law.
In an unusual move, the committee chairman, Mohn Sophan, invited organizations, interest
groups and the general public to submit their comments and concerns that would then
be taken into account during the committee's work.
Earlier this week, rights organization Human Rights Watch, which lauds Sophan's initiative,
submitted a comprehensive list of suggestions to the committee.
Among other things, the organization recommends that the UN Secretary-General be
empowered to approve all judges and prosecutors in the tribunal, that the prosecutor
is given power to indict and that the procedure of the supermajority is clarified.
Human Rights Watch also draws attention to lacking provisions for the defense (see
story this page), opposes the acknowledgment of previous and granting of future amnesties
and points to the need for a protection plan to ensure that witnesses and court personnel
have adequate guarantees for their personal safety.
The draft law is expected to be debated in an extraordinary United Nations Assembly
session to begin on Feb 21.
At this time a trial is tenatively scheduled for mid-April.