The Senate on Monday unanimously approved a revised version of the law to try Khmer Rouge leaders, paving the way for the law to be reviewed a second time by the Constitutional Council before it goes before King Norodom Sihanouk.
Meanwhile, Cabinet Minister Sok An told lawmakers that the timetable for the establishment of a tribunal would depend on the government’s negotiations with the UN.
Fifty-one senators voted in favor of the law’s Article 3, which had been revised to eliminate references to the death penalty—currently outlawed under the Cambodian Constitution. That technical glitch had stalled the law for four months before the National Assembly reviewed it again and approved the revised legislation on July 11.
The Senate is expected to forward the law to the Constitutional Council, which found the death penalty error, later this week for re-examination.
“The new meaning of Article 3 responds to what the Constitutional Council wanted, and I don’t think there will be a problem again,” said Sok An, head of the government’s negotiating team on the Khmer Rouge tribunal.
Sok An said he would wait for the law to be promulgated before he restarts talks with the UN, which must agree on a memorandum of understanding with the Cambodian government before a tribunal can be established.
Although Prime Minister Hun Sen has said a tribunal could be put together by August, Sok An said he could not predict a timetable.
“It is up to how long the law process lasts and how long the next negotiations last,” he said. “The date should not be determined by Cambodia alone. If we do the negotiations quickly, we can establish a trial faster.”
Sok An’s comments came a day after Hun Sen said that he doesn’t care if the UN participates in a tribunal or not—a view he has reiterated repeatedly in recent weeks.
The latest attacks on the UN have again put into question if and when a tribunal will be established.
Although Sok An did not criticize the UN, he said Cambodia, and not the UN, has the sovereign right to control the trial process.
During the one-hour Senate debate, Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Kong Kom criticized the government and Sok An for taking several months to revise a simple glitch in the law.
“I was disappointed that the government took [a long time] to revise one small point, but it took a lot of time to receive Chinese leaders,” Kong Kom said, referring to the November visit of Chinese President Jiang Zemin, as well as several subsequent visits by senior Chinese government leaders.
He also said he wanted more UN participation in the trial process because the Cambodian justice system is incompetent and corrupt.
“In times past, Cambodian justice has never been fulfilled,” Kong Kom said. “A culture of impunity exists here.”