NGOs Push Legal Reform Before Tribunal

The Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee, a coalition of 17 local NGOs, has urged the government to further amend the draft law on establishing a UN-backed trial of surviving leaders of the Khmer Rouge’s Democratic Kampuchea.

In a statement Friday, the Ac­tion Committee specifically asked that Article 33 of the law require the tribunal’s judges to nail down procedural rules for applying in­ternational law to the prosecution when Cambodian law does not suffice.

As it stands, the article orders the judges to ensure international standards of “justice, fairness and due process of law,” using existing Cambodian procedures.

But in instances where Cambo­dian law does not apply or may be inconsistent with international legal standards, “guidance may be sought in procedural rules established at the international level,” an unofficial translation of the law says.

Leaders of some Action Com­mittee member organizations said Sunday that in having the government mandate the adoption of procedure for using international law, they were seeking to avoid deadlock and delays once prosecution is under way.

Kek Galabru, president of Li­cadho, said that even though the 3-year time frame for the tribunal can be extended, donors will not let it run on forever.

“In the mean time, maybe former [Khmer Rouge] leaders, like [ex-commander] Ta Mok, will die,” she said.

“There is no procedure. No­thing,” she said. “They will use in­ternational law. But how?”

Sean Visoth, the executive secretary of the government’s tribunal task force, said Sunday that the law would not be altered by the task force.

“The agreement between the UN and Cambodia says that if there is some change in the agreement, then it requires further consultation between the two sides…. It will cause more delay,” he said.

When the draft bill goes before the National Assembly, however, lawmakers could make minor changes, Sean Visoth said.

Sok Sam Oeun, president of the Cambodian Defenders Pro­ject, argued that the proposed addition to Article 33 would merely facilitate what the UN and Cambodia agreed upon in 2003.

Kim San, secretary-general of the National Assembly, said the bill should go before lawmakers in September.

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