The draft law to try former Khmer Rouge leaders, which will be considered by the Constitutional Council on Friday, will not be changed to address concerns expressed by the UN’s top legal expert, government officials and diplomats said Wednesday.
Instead, the government and UN will sign a written understanding to address and clarify each of the UN’s points, US Ambassador Kent Wiedemann said. The agreement will then be subject to Parliament’s approval.
“That will have the same force of law as making changes in the current law,” Wiedemann said. “In affect, it will act as an addendum to the law.”
Wiedemann said he remains confident that the Khmer Rouge trial process is on track.
“As far as I can see and from what the prime minister [Hun Sen] has said, I think the government takes seriously the points that [UN legal expert] Hans Corell raised and they want to reach an agreement with the UN on those points,” he said.
Om Yentieng, an adviser to Hun Sen and a member of the tribunal draft law task force, said the draft law would become official once King Norodom Sihanouk signs it. He, too, said the law will not be changed.
Minister of Cabinet Sok An, head of the government’s negotiating team, talked to Corell on the phone and addressed the UN’s concerns, Om Yentieng said.
“[Corell] understood a lot after Sok An explained everything,” he said. “There will be an agreement between the UN and the government soon.”
In a letter dated Jan 9, Corell had expressed concerns about 17 of the draft law’s 49 articles. The key point in the letter was that the draft law should contain no ambiguity over the tribunal’s authority to prosecute any Khmer Rouge leader, even if he enjoys a government amnesty.
Former Khmer Rouge deputy premier Ieng Sary, who led a mass defection of cadre members that crippled the movement in 1996, was granted amnesty by King Norodom Sihanouk for a 1979 death sentence.
Hun Sen has warned that war would break out if Ieng Sary is tried. But he also has said he has no power to bar anyone from being prosecuted and that it will be up to the courts to decide who will be tried.
The Constitutional Council will informally discuss the draft law today, and the nine-member body will hold an official meeting on the legislation Friday, said Kry Vanna, a member of the council’s staff.
Chan Sok, president of the Constitutional Council, said the body’s job is to ensure that the draft law does not conflict with the Cambodian Constitution.
“It will be a very serious discussion,” he said.
It was unclear when the Constitutional Council will be finished with the law and when it would be passed to the King, Chan Sok said.
Sok An has said he plans to meet Corell as soon as the law is promulgated. The UN and the government will then sign a memorandum of understanding, making the tribunal agreement official, and paving the way for the trial.