Council OKs KR Draft Law Despite Glitch

The Constitutional Council on Monday approved the overall draft law to try former Khmer Rouge leaders, but noted a technical problem in the legislation that indirectly makes references to the death penalty, which is outlawed according to the Cambo­dian Constitution.

Council member Bin Chhin said Article 3 of the Khmer Rouge draft law does not conform with what is outlined in Article 39 of the same legislation and what is in the Constitution.

In Article 3 of the Khmer Rouge draft law that deals with charges, references are made to articles in the 1956 penal code that deal with homicide, torture and religious persecution. According to the 1956 penal code, the sentence for those charges is death.

But the Constitution doesn’t permit anyone to be sentenced to death; the most severe punishment listed in both the Consti­tution and the Khmer Rouge legislation is life in prison.

Article 3 “is against Article 32 of the Constitution,” Bin Chhin said. “The National Assembly members and senators did not check this clearly. We must protect the Constitution so the draft law has to be perfect.”

To fix the problem, Constitu­tional Council members said a provision stating that the death penalty cannot be used as a punishment should be inserted into Article 3 of the Khmer Rouge law.

“There is no need to delete the articles,” Bin Chhin said. “We just need to add that there is an exception that the death penalty cannot be used.”

Constitutional Council spokes­man Yang Sem said the legislation will be sent back to the National Assembly on Monday to make the necessary changes.

Once the changes are made, the law will be sent to the Council of Ministers, and then to King Norodom Sihanouk for review.

Kyodo News reported the King is scheduled to leave for China on Feb 21 for a medical checkup and treatment for chronic ailments, and will be in Beijing for a month.

Chan Ven, deputy secretary general of the National Assembly, said lawmakers have not yet received the Khmer Rouge draft law. Once the legislation is received, the assembly’s permanent committee will discuss the change ordered by the Constitu­tional Council and then an extraordinary session of the National Assembly will be called.

“We must have a full quorum to make this change,” Chan Ven said. “The permanent committee cannot do it by itself.”

The draft law says only Khmer Rouge senior leaders and those believed to be most responsible would be subject to prosecution. Many former top cadre, such as Democratic Kampuchea Foreign Minister Ieng Sary and Khmer Rouge political ideologue Nuon Chea, are old and are reportedly ill.








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