Local View on Number of KR  Suspects Unclear

International prosecutors at the Khmer Rouge tribunal have identified additional suspects, but it re­mains unclear whether Cambodian prosecutors will agree that the new suspects should be investigated, ac­cording to officials at the court.

The circumstances raise the possibility that the prosecution’s two sides, UN and Cambodian, may disagree on whom to prosecute next or whether any new suspects should be prosecuted. However, of­ficials said the Cambodian side has yet to express either agreement or opposition to more charges.

Since 2007, the Office of the Co-Prosecutors, which has sole legal authority to initiate the prosecution of crimes allegedly committed by the Democratic Kampuchea re­gime, has only recommended five individuals for prosecution, all of whom have been arrested and charged by the court’s co-investigating judges.

International Co-Prosecutor Ro­bert Petit was traveling outside of Cam­bodia on Sunday, while Cam­bo­dian Co-Prosecutor Chea Leang de­clined to comment on the matter, referring questions to public af­fairs. International and Cambo­dian court spokes­men said Nov 23 there was no announcement to be made yet.

“What I can tell you is when the pro­secutors have information to re­­lease, we will release it,” said Cam­­bodian spokesman Reach Sam­bath.

In June, Petit and Chea Leang ap­peared to disagree on whether pre­lim­inary investigations were un­der way, with Petit saying in an in­terview that he intended to name more suspects for prosecution while Chea Leang said she was un­aware of any such plan.

In an e-mail this month, Petit said he could not confirm or de­ny whether prosecutors would make any additional allegations to be­gin new judicial investigations, known as an “in­troductory submission.”

Prime Minister Hun Sen in 1999 said Cambodia would try “four or five” Khmer Rouge officials, and government officials have in the past said trying too many Khmer Rouge suspects could damage the hard-won peace achieved when the government negotiated the surrender of the former rebels.

That Cambodian authorities could try to influence the trials for political reasons has been a persistent concern among observers and UN negotiators. First proposed in 2000 as a safeguard against any possible political interference, the court’s Pre-Trial Chamber was est­ablished to resolve disputes be­tween co-prosecutors and co-investigating judges. Should a disagreement on whether to proceed arise, an investigation will go ahead un­less at least one of the five-judge panel’s two foreign members agrees to halt it.

Heather Ryan, a court monitor for the Open Society Justice Initia­tive, said Sunday the court had a limited time within which to initiate new proceedings.

“The investigation and prosecution of additional persons is im­portant to the credibility of the court,” she said.

“Since the beginning of this court, there has been a concern about political interference over the number and identity of suspects and we’re looking to the court to demonstrate independence.”

     (Additional reporting by Yun Samean)

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