Eleventh-hour diplomacy has salvaged an attempt to get the UN to reopen talks on a Khmer Rouge tribunal, with France and Japan co-sponsoring a draft mandate that would force the UN to come back to the table—a proposal that could come up for its first vote as early as this week, several sources in Phnom Penh said Sunday.
“Conscious that the opportunity to bring those responsible to justice may soon be lost,” France and Japan urge UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan “to resume negotiations, without delay,” according to the draft resolution, which was obtained Sunday.
France and Japan moved late last Tuesday to co-sponsor the proposed mandate—which UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan says he needs to restart the stalled talks, Japanese Ambassador Gotaro Ogawa said.
Australia had been the informal chair of a coalition of 26 nations fighting to get a new UN mandate through the world body and save a court that would bring justice to Cambodia more than two decades after the Khmer Rouge regime was toppled, several sources familiar with the negotiations said.
The sources said Sunday that Australia finally got fed up with Cambodia’s insistence over the wording of the resolution.
Ogawa said Sunday that he was guardedly optimistic. “We all have been working very hard to get a Khmer Rouge tribunal. I don’t know if we’ll be successful, but I hope we will be,” he said.
The key to the mandate is wording that makes Cambodia’s tribunal law supreme, some sources said. When he pulled the plug on the Khmer Rouge tribunal negotiations in February, UN Chief of Legal Affairs Hans Corell said Cambodians had refused to bow to UN authority.
The proposed mandate would reverse course by giving the Cambodian law “subject-matter jurisdiction” in the tribunal.
The UN’s top human rights observer for Cambodia, Peter Leuprecht, refuted that interpretation, but hailed the draft proposal.
“I think it’s a good text and hope that the Cambodians would support it,” Leuprecht said.
(Additional reporting by David Kihara)