Sok An: UN Gave Up Too Soon on Trial

Council of Ministers chief Sok An Tuesday blasted the UN’s decision to pull out of the Khmer Rouge tribunals and broke a “gentlemen’s agreement” by distribu­ting confidential communications be­­tween himself and UN Secre­tary-General for Legal Affairs Hans Corell at a news conference at the Council of Ministers.

“It is surprising to read that the UN Secretariat believes it is not likely that we would resolve it through further negotiations, considering how far both parties have come precisely through the pro­cess of negotiating,” Sok An read from a prepared statement. “Com­promises were made on both sides along the way, but I believe the model we de­signed…forms a sound basis.”

Sok An was reacting to the UN’s decision Friday to withdraw from the Khmer Rouge tribunal talks, a move that angered some diplomats and raised further concerns that the already-stalled tribunals would never be held and that some aging Khmer Rouge leaders would never be tried.

A spokesman for UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Monday  at the UN that the “decision was not taken lightly” and that Annan “stands by it.”

At the news conference, Sok An distributed letters between himself and Hans Corell dated Nov 23, 2001 and Jan 22, 2002, which discussed in detail the government’s position on certain UN recommendations to the Khmer Rouge draft law, such as the government’s refusal to change wording that determined the jurisdiction of the international tribunal.

The Jan 22 letter took issue with certain points raised by Corell previously, such as the government’s view that Cambodian reserve judges and prosecutors should replace Cambodian judges if necessary while foreign reserve judges should replace foreign court officials.

While it may seem like a minor disagreement, it points to Cambodia’s insistence that it keep a “super majority” of judges and court officials.

Sok An did concede Cambodia most likely could not create a national court to try Khmer Rouge leaders that meets international standards.

According to Sok An, the two letters were not made public because of an informal confidentiality agreement between himself and Corell.

Sok An also listed numerous concessions the Cambodian government made to the UN, such as the formation of the “extraordinary tribunal” which would combine both national and international judges and prosecutors.

Although Sok An declined to say what concessions the UN or Cambodia would need to take in order to restart the Khmer Rouge tribunal talks, he said this was not a “stalemate.” He said the government will decide what to do “in the next few days, not in a few years.”

When asked if the government will go forward  without assistance from the UN, Sok An replied: “We have received some support from countries concerning the UN’s withdrawal, but this is not the time to discuss what the next step will be.”


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