Lawmakers, Sok An Work On KR Draft

A National Assembly commission and Minister of Cabinet Sok An said they will try to finish the review of a draft law to try former Khmer Rouge leaders by Satur­day, after the two sides met Tuesday to work through articles of the legislation.

The meeting came after months of inaction and a week after a visit by US Senator John Kerry, who came to Cambodia to push the government to move forward on the draft law, which will determine how to try the leaders of a regime that left more than 1 million dead.

“Let’s try to finish this law before Saturday,” Sok An told Monh Saphan, chairman of the Assem­bly’s legislation commission. “We have to work hard on this.”

Monh Saphan said if they meet their Saturday goal, the draft law could move to the Assembly’s permanent committee on Mon­day, which will decide where the legislation will go on the agenda to be considered by all lawmakers.

However, Sok An said there are other pieces of legislation that are more important than the Khmer Rouge draft law—such as the budget for the next fiscal year—that have to be considered by the Assembly first.

“Even though we have to finish this fast, we do have more urgent legislation than this,” he said. “This law cannot be put forward to the Assembly until the budget is passed.”

Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia, welcomed the news that the review of the draft law by the legislation commission may be finished by Saturday.

“If the promise is kept, it would be perfect, brilliant,” he said.

Kao Kim Hourn, executive director of the Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace, said it is also important the lawmakers have a substantive debate to make sure the law is the best it can be.

“The killing of people by the Khmer Rouge took four years, so the Assembly should take time to discuss the articles thoroughly, rather than just seeing it through.”

Lawmakers on Tuesday went through articles 8 to 20 in the draft law, making mostly minor changes.

Article 20, which focused on the establishment of a pre-trial chamber to settle differences between prosecutors, produced the most debate.

Pre-trials do not currently exist in the Cambodian legal system, but the idea to establish one was agreed upon by the UN and the government for a Khmer Rouge tribunal, Sok An said.

According to Article 20, the pre-trial chamber would consist of five judges, all selected by the Supreme Council of Magistracy. Three of the judges would be Cambodian and two would be foreigners. Four of the judges would be needed to make a decision, and the chamber’s judgment can’t be appealed.

The pre-trial chamber would be used when prosecutors disagree and a request is made within 50 days to solve the dispute in the chamber. A decision must be made quickly by the chamber.

Sam Sundoeun, a Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker and a member of the commission, complained that the additions and changes made to Article 20 were too numerous and he needed more time to study them.

“If the government just distributes it and it’s passed right away, lawmakers cannot examine it deeply,” he said.

He also complained that Sok An was giving commission members only copies of revised articles, as opposed to the entire version of the latest draft law.

Monh Saphan and Sok An said they couldn’t give Sam Sundoeun more time and that an entire draft law couldn’t be passed out because the government is in the process of finalizing it.

Another change made to the law was in Article 11, which was Article 13 in previous versions. The number of Cambodian judges to be appointed was lowered from 14 to 12, but the nine foreign judges remained intact.

Added to the amnesty clause in Article 40, which was Article 9 in previous versions, was a provision that said any amnesty given to any persons was the responsibility of the court and not the government.

(Additional reporting by Yuko Maeda)




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