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KRT prosecutors at impasse

KRT prosecutors at impasse


With the first trial of former Khmer Rouge leaders expected in early

2009, prosecutors clash on whether to add new suspects to the

tribunal's docket

Photo by:
Tracey Shelton

ECCC co-prosecutor Chea Leang pictured at the tribunal during a hearing earlier this year. 

CHEA Leang, Cambodia's co-prosecutor to the Kingdom's Khmer Rouge tribunal, has reaffirmed her opposition to investigating more potential defendants, her foreign counterpart Robert Petit said Tuesday, setting the stage for further possible delays to the war crimes court.

Chea Leang filed a response at the tribunal's Pre-Trial Chamber to Petit's own "statement of disagreement" lodged earlier this month after the pair failed to agree on Petit's proposal to submit more suspects for investigation.

While Petit  has refused to confirm any figures, sources close to the court say that six additional former regime members have been targeted.

Chea Leang could not be reached for comment on Tuesday, but Petit said their difference of opinion was "significant ...  [and] fundamental".

"We're going ahead with the disagreement procedure," Petit told the Post.

He said, however, the rebuff by his counterpart would not change his mind. "I proceeded ... because I believed there was evidence [to try additional suspects] and it's in our mandate to do so," he said.

While he was "not optimistic" he could reach an agreement with Chea Leang on his own, he said they would "continue to speak regularly and cooperate".

Even as the Pre-Trial Chamber has no timeline for resolving the impasse, court officials insisted it would not delay the legal proceedings of the five former regime leaders in custody.

Reach Sambath, spokesman for the Cambodian side of the hybrid court, said the disagreement would not affect the substance or timing of the current docket since the pretrial and trial proceedings are presided over by a different team of judges.

Spokeswoman  Helen Jarvis said the disagreement was inherent to the tribunal's evolution. "You can't expect everyone to have the same point of view," she said.

Meanwhile, legal observers like Open Society Justice Initiative have urged the Cambodian side of the court to demonstrate its independence by allowing further investigations to begin.

Many senior government posts are currently held by former Khmer Rouge cadre, and experts say the government fears a wider roundup could expose them to scrutiny.