A group of NGOs in Cambodia said Friday that it supports an international tribunal to try Khmer Rouge leaders for crimes against humanity as a way to help “accelerate the resurrection of Cambodian society.”
“The deep physical and psychological wounds left by the Khmer Rouge experience continue to have a profound impact on Cambodia, its people and its development,” said the statement by the NGO Forum on Cambodia.
“A UN-sponsored tribunal could focus international attention on the horrendous crimes of the Khmer Rouge period as well as provide some useful tools for reflection and reconciliation among Cambodian people. Perhaps as importantly, such a tribunal could help the international community reflect on its own responsibilities in reacting to situations where genocide or other crimes against humanity occur or are likely to occur.”
A three-person UN team visited Cambodia for 10 days last month to assess evidence for a possible international tribunal. An estimated 1.8 million Cambodians died under the Khmer Rouge regime from 1975-78 through starvation, execution, forced labor and torture.
In a press conference, the UN team said that although thousands of Cambodians are likely responsible for atrocities during the period, only leaders would be targeted.
The government supported the investigative team’s efforts. But in a recent interview with Asiaweek magazine, Prime Minister Hun Sen said that he believes the Khmer Rouge leaders should be tried in a Cambodian court rather than by an international tribunal.
Said the NGO Forum in its statement: “A free and fair adjudication of the crimes committed by the Khmer Rouge is essential to resolving the heritage of suffering which is so pervasive in Cambodia today….Adjudication by an international tribunal would help to accelerate the resurrection of Cambodian society by serving to re-establish a sense of justice and personal accountability.”
The NGO Forum is made up of non-government organizations that provide humanitarian and development assistance to Cambodia. Since its formation a decade ago, the NGO Forum has advocated an international tribunal to address the atrocities committed during the Khmer Rouge regime.