Tribunal ‘Either-Or’ for UN

Regardless of how many countries hold “consultations” with the government on how to try Khmer Rouge leaders, a decision whether the international community is involved will come from the UN, an envoy from the world body stressed Wednesday.

“We will make one decision, and everyone will be behind that decision from the international side,” said UN special envoy to Cambodia on human rights Thomas Hammarberg.

If the UN accepts the government’s plan, so will the entire international community, he said. If the UN rejects it, “other governments will not come in some sort of second round. It’s an either-or situation.”

Yet he conceded that “considerable ground” remains between what the UN and the government consider a credible trial, despite remarks last week by Prime Minister Hun Sen that the government would accept US moves toward a compromise.

After meeting with Hammar­berg this week, Hun Sen said the government will send its formal proposal to the UN in November, and hopes to send a law to the National Assembly by December and start the trials next year.

But Hammarberg hinted this might be too optimistic. “I hate to throw cold water on this,” he said, smiling. But the government might need more time “constructing for the first time ever, in any country in the world, a tribunal that is a combination of national procedures and…international standards.”

While he said he welcomed advice from other countries, such as France, Russia and the US, he stopped short at accepting a recent US plan that proposes putting three Cambodian judges on a five-member court but requiring a “super-majority,” or four votes, for a verdict.

Given the UN’s dubious history of ignoring the atrocities committed by Khmer Rouge leaders, Hammarberg said it would be nothing short of an “honor” for the UN to help establish a trial. Yet he urged the only acceptable trial will be one without the “possibility for political interference.”

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