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No more KR suspects: Cambodian prosecutor

No more KR suspects: Cambodian prosecutor

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090106_01.jpg

The Extraordinary Chambers’ Chea Leang breaks her silence on why the court must not seek to bring more ex-KR leaders on the docket

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SOVANN PHILONG

Tourists visit Tuol Sleng genocide museum on Monday.

PUTTING more former KR leaders on the docket would  contradict the original mandate of the Khmer Rouge tribunal, overstretch its duration and budget, and undermine national stability and reconciliation, according to Cambodian co-prosecutor Chea Leang, whose reasoning against expanding the trials was made public for the first time on Monday.

Since late last year, Chea Leang and her international counterpart, Robert Petit, have been at loggerheads over whether to submit more suspects for investigation - beyond the five former Khmer Rouge leaders currently detained.

"She feels that this court should instead prioritise the trials of the five suspects already detained," especially since, according to her, the tribunal's mandate "envisioned only a small number of trials",  said a statement from the UN-backed tribunal released Monday.  

"She maintains that this Court's mandate can be adequately filled by the prosecution of the suspects already detained," it added.

Chea Leang, who could not be reached for comment Monday, had filed her arguments December 29 to the tribunal's Pre-Trial Chamber in response to a "statement of disagreement" lodged earlier in the month by Petit after the pair failed to agree on his proposal to add additional suspects. While Petit has refused to confirm any figures, sources close to the court say that six additional former regime members have been targeted.

"There is a difference in our interpretation of what this court is about," Petit told the Post Monday, although he insisted the disagreement has not delayed ongoing investigations at the tribunal.

Expanding the docket would help the court fulfill its mandate, he said, adding: "The stability of any society can only be enhanced by improved accountability".

Petit acknowledged that expanding the docket presented "legitimate" financial concerns but was confident the move "would be supported by donors".

Long Panhavuth, program coordinator for the legal watchdog Cambodian Justice Initiative, said, "Expanding the number of suspects will improve the integrity and independence of the court, and that will attract more donor funds".

The group has urged the Cambodian side of the court to demonstrate its independence by allowing further investigation in the face of government fears that a wider roundup could expose current leaders to scrutiny. 

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