The Cambodian government sent an invitation to the UN late last week to continue discussions on the Khmer Rouge trial, pushing ahead the final process of setting up an international tribunal to try former leaders of the regime, US Ambassador Kent Wiedemann said Tuesday.
Wiedemann said that Prime Minister Hun Sen told him Monday he was “anxious to go to trial” using legislation approved by the government and signed by King Norodom Sihanouk in August.
Minister of Cabinet Sok An, who has led the government’s negotiations with the UN over the Khmer Rouge trial, sent a letter to UN legal expert Hans Corell last week, asking him to return to Cambodia.
Cambodian officials maintain that the few points of the trial plan that still need to be worked out are minor, and they see no serious obstacles to drafting a memorandum of understanding with the UN on the conduct of the tribunal.
Though marred in the past by fighting and frequent stalling, the trial process in recent months has gone smoothly, and Hun Sen has said the tribunal could begin before the end of the year. That’s highly unlikely, given the time needed to select court officials and assemble staff and equipment.
While the government appears ready to work with the UN on a Khmer Rouge trial, legislators Tuesday discussed ratifying the Rome Statute, which would set up an International Criminal Court that could be used to try future crimes against humanity.
Members of the National Assembly’s legislative commission said Tuesday that the ICC, which would intervene if a government fails or is not capable of prosecuting suspects, does not appear to conflict with the Cambodian Constitution, and that the Rome Statute is likely to be sent to the full assembly for approval.
Hun Sen pledged to human rights officials in June that Cambodia would be the first Southeast Asian nation to ratify the statute.