The UN’s Undersecretary General for Legal Affairs Hans Corell said on Tuesday the world body would pull out of a trial for former Khmer Rouge leaders if Cambodian legislators fail to approve agreements already made between the UN and Cambodian leaders.
If lawmakers decide to fashion their own version of a trial, “The [UN] Secretary-General would probably draw the conclusion that would be the end of the story,” Corell said after arriving at Pochentong Airport.
“We cannot continue indefinitely,” he said.
He defended the UN’s role in talks between the two sides that began more than two years ago and will continue this week.
Responding to recent claims that the world body has been lax in responding to government demands, Corell said, “I would suggest we responded very quickly. In fact, in some instances, I have responded in a couple of days.”
Corell again stressed the “technical” nature of this week’s visit and said he is here to hammer out the details of how to conduct the unprecedented trial.
For instance, the two sides must decide what languages in which to conduct the trial, which courthouse will host the trial, and how judges will be selected and appointed to serve on the bench.
Corell ticked off a list of things to do once a formal agreement is signed between the government and the UN, and said it would be “misleading” to mention any specific time frame for how soon a trial would start.
Before any of these procedures begin, a verbal agreement reached by both sides in May must be approved by Parliament, the Senate, the Constitutional Council and then the King. Only then can the UN formally enter into the process, Corell said.
He also reminded reporters of the unique nature of a “mixed” tribunal that would be held in Cambodia, but with international jurists.“These are uncharted waters. This has never been done before,” he said.
Already, the two sides have agreed there would be a majority of Cambodian judges, a system of “co-prosecutors”—one Cambodian, one foreign—and a system that disallows pardons and calls for arrests to be made by Cambodian officials. Cambodian leaders—some of whom served under the Khmer Rouge—have been reluctant to relinquish control over the proceedings, while the UN has called local courts too politicized to hold a fair trial.
In a somewhat vague statement, a plenary session of the ruling CPP on Tuesday backed plans for the trial, but made no mention of the UN.