Human Rights Watch assailed the government’s draft law that would establish a trial of former Khmer Rouge leaders, calling on officials to “lessen the risks of political manipulation.”
“More and more people accused of serious human rights crimes are being prosecuted, not just in Cambodia, but all over the world,” said Mike Jendrzejczyk, the New York-based group’s director in Washington in the Friday statement.
“But the phenomenon is still new—and that makes it especially important the these tribunals be established properly.”
The draft law’s key weakness, the statement said, is its “over-reliance on Cambodia’s judiciary and civil service, which traditionally have been directly manipulated by the executive branch.”
But the law’s supporters say many concerns can be worked out in procedure and need not be included in the legal text.
“They just have to figure out a way that if they don’t agree, what happens,” one Cambodian-based diplomat said recently. “That doesn’t necessarily have to be in the law.”
The group also slammed the law for remaining “silent” on amnesties already granted to former Khmer Rouge members who recently defected to the government, saying it will oppose “amnesties granted for the most heinous human rights crimes, such as genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.”
Human Rights Watch criticized the law’s plan for co-prosecutors and a panel of both Cambodian and foreign judges, where no ruling could be made without a foreign judge’s vote. Similar to recent criticism of the law by the UN, the group said this process could lead to “stalemates.”