UN negotiator Hans Corell talks to reporters at Phnom Penh International Airport on March 13.
Hans Corell, the UN's chief negotiator on the Khmer Rouge tribunal, landed in Phnom
Penh for the first time in almost three years for what he agreed would be the last
chance to put the aging Khmer Rouge leaders on trial.
"The General Assembly resolution has been described as the last chance for Cambodia
to bring the Khmer Rouge to trial, and I hope this is clear to both sides,"
he told a press conference at Phnom Penh International Airport on March 13.
He told reporters he would take a positive approach, but said "it remains to
be seen" if the text of an agreement will be produced.
Relations between the two parties have been strained in the past, something Corell
alluded to when he again outlined the reasons behind the UN's withdrawal from talks
in February 2002.
He said there were concerns about the standards of justice negotiated, the standing
of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in relation to Cambodia's trial law, and
pointedly referred to the long delay in producing that law.
"Let us say, the way in which the Cambodian authorities had dealt with the matter
during 14 months after July 7, 2000 when I left Cambodia, and the 31st of August
2001 when we received the law," he cited as a reason for the UN's withdrawal.
Corell also faced questions over his own commitment.
"It's not a question of what [commitment] I have. I'm the legal counsel of the
UN and I'm following the instructions given by the Secretary-General [Kofi Annan].
What matters is what the General Assembly says.
"Whatever we negotiate here has to be accepted by the General Assembly, so it's
not just that the delegations can do as they please. We have to be very careful here
that the result is up to the standard that the General Assembly can accept,"
Corell was tight-lipped about the content of discussions, saying he and the government's
negotiator, Senior Minister Sok An, had agreed to private talks.
However the key issues are thought little different from those cited by the UN when
it pulled out. At the time Sok An released letters to the UN outlining the Cambodian
responses to UN objections.
The sticking points were addressed in an eleven-point response dated November 23
to an earlier letter from Corell. In that letter, Sok An agreed international judges
and prosecutors could only be replaced by other internationals; defendants would
be guaranteed their own choice of counsel; Kofi Annan had the right to appoint UN
staff; and the government would protect witnesses.
Corell was non-committal whether his position had changed on the key issue of which
document should control the trial: the Cambodian law or the MoU.
"This question is probably solved through resolution in the General Assembly,"
he said. "The General Assembly talked quite clearly about an agreement between
Cambodia and the United Nations. This is what we're supposed to negotiate."
Sok An's November letter said the role of the MoU was to "determine the modalities
of cooperation ... in implementing those provisions of the Law ... it is not possible
for [the MoU] to modify, let alone prevail over, [the] Law".