The top UN administrator at the Khmer Rouge tribunal spoke yesterday to some 350 students at the capital’s Royal School of Administration, highlighting differences between Cambodia’s UN-backed tribunal and other war crimes courts.
The 28-minute speech by Knut Rosandhaug, the court’s deputy director of administration, was followed by distribution of copies of the July judgment against former S-21 Chairman Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Duch. Some 4,000 copies of the 450-page judgment have been handed out nationwide, according to tribunal spokesman Lars Olsen.
In his talk yesterday, Mr Rosandhaug noted that the Khmer Rouge tribunal is a national court with UN backing, whereas other war crimes courts are run by the UN, such as the Netherlands-based International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.
Mr Rosandhaug acknowledged that government control has led to criticism of the Cambodian tribunal. Watchdog groups have warned of political interference at the court after government officials made public statements opposing additional prosecutions.
“This creates a little bit of friction now and again. This is about the independence of the judges. Some people say it is more secure to have the judges appointed by the UN rather than the government, which has a stake in the process,” Mr Rosandhaug said.
Mr Rosandhaug also pointed to advantages of the model used by the Khmer Rouge tribunal, such as the location of the court in Cambodia.
“The chances of reconciliation and reintegration are much larger when you establish the court inside the area where the [alleged] crimes took place,” Mr Rosandhaug said in an interview after his talk, elaborating on comments in his speech.
He added that the tribunal, because it is partly staffed by Cambodians, also has a better opportunity than a court outside the country to improve the skills of Cambodians working in the judiciary.