The government has given a clear written promise that Ieng Sary can be brought before a Khmer Rouge tribunal, US Ambassador Kent Wiedemann said Thursday.
“Cambodia has given its assurances, and that’s precisely what the UN has asked for. The question is whether the UN believes it or not and that’s a political question, not a legal one,” Wiedemann said.
“This matter has been resolved.”
Prime Minister Hun Sen has said repeatedly in the past that indicting Ieng Sary—the third highest-ranking Khmer Rouge leader during the Pol Pot regime —could jeopardize Cambodia’s peace.
But the prime minister said earlier this week that the government would not prevent the tribunal from indicting any former top Khmer Rouge leader.
Wiedemann said the US would withdraw its support for the tribunal if Ieng Sary is not tried.
“And we would expect the UN to walk away. We would condemn the Cambodians for reneging. No trial will be credible without Ieng Sary,” the ambassador said.
Differences between the UN and the government on how the tribunal should be organized and conducted could be addressed through “clarifications” and improved translations of the tribunal law during upcoming negotiations on articles of cooperation between the UN and the government, Wiedemann said.
Hun Sen said Tuesday that the tribunal law, signed by King Norodom Sihanouk last Friday, could not be changed in the negotiations.
Ieng Sary served as deputy premier and foreign minister during the Pol Pot regime, during which more than one million Cambodians died of starvation, overwork, illness or execution between 1975-1979. He defected to the government in 1996, a move that observers say helped end years of civil war.
King Norodom Sihanouk granted an amnesty to Ieng Sary in 1996, clearing him of a death sentence that was handed down in Phnom Penh by a Vietnamese-sponsored court in 1979.
The UN pressed for a phrase in the tribunal law earlier this year that would have stated that an amnesty would not be a bar to prosecution.
Wiedemann said Thursday that the King’s pardon was only for genocide, just one of several crimes for which former Khmer Rouge leaders can be prosecuted under the tribunal law.
“Ieng Sary is still liable for other crimes in the law,” the ambassador said. “He can be tried now for crimes against humanity, as well as any Cambodian laws, like murder or rape.”