Leuprecht Hopes UN Will Resume KR Talks Tribunal

UN human rights envoy Peter Leuprecht said Friday he “personally regrets” the breakdown of discussions between the UN and Cambodia on a Khmer Rouge tribunal. But he would not say whose fault he thought it was that talks have again stalled after the UN walked away from the negotiating table last month.

“I hope the last word on this has not been spoken,” Leuprecht said as he approached the end of his fifth visit to Cambodia. “The Cambodians have said the door is open. I would hope someone wants to walk through that door,” he said, though no further talks on the matter have been scheduled.

The UN’s abrupt withdrawal from the tribunal talks has been harshly criticized by Cam­bodians and, according to Leup­recht, does not have the backing of the world body’s member countries.

“I haven’t seen one country so far that has come out in support of this decision,” he said, adding that the UN would lend needed credibility to a trial in Cambodia, where a weak judiciary has often been the target of international critics.

“It is my impression that Cam­bodian government authorities understand that a purely domestic tribunal would lack the necessary credibility,” Leuprecht said.

Judicial reform, beyond a Khmer Rouge tribunal, remains a high priority for Leuprecht and was again a major part of his discussions with officials during this visit. A strong judiciary is “essential” for human rights to develop in Cambodia, Leuprecht said. “This, on one hand, is recognized by the leaders in this country. But on the other hand, it must be said that progress is slow,” he said.

He said despite the opening of a school for magistrates and better training for lawyers, Cam­bodia still suffers a severe lack of competent law practitioners. “One way to improve the judiciary is to bring in fresh blood. Cam­bodia has fewer than 200 practicing lawyers and that is insufficient for a country the size of Cam­bodia,” Leuprecht said.

Leuprecht expects to return in June, where at times he has had a mediocre reception. Fol­lowing his last visit, Prime Minister Hun Sen called him “stupid.”

Several high-ranking officials, including the premier, Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng and National Police Director-General Hok Lundy canceled meetings with him during this trip, though Leuprecht appeared unconcerned. He did score a minor victory with the government’s signing of a memorandum of understanding that gives the UN Human Rights office a “clear and solid basis.”


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