UN Counsel Arrives to Sign KR Trial Deal

The UN’s chief legal counsel, Hans Corell, arrived in Phnom Penh on Thursday evening to begin a visit that is expected to seal an agreement be­tween Cam­bodia and the world body on a long-awaited trial of surviving Khmer Rouge leaders.

Last month the UN General Assembly approved an agreement with Cambodia to establish a genocide tribunal.

The consensus vote of the General Assembly’s 191 members marked the final hurdles in negotiations that began in 1997 but moved at a glacial pace as both Phnom Penh and UN negotiators wrestled over the final make-up of the tribunal.

“The agreement has been ap­proved by the General Assembly of the United Nations so the next step is to sign it,” Corell told reporters upon arrival at Phnom Penh International Airport.

“It has been a long process so far. But I think that now we are in a different setting,” Corell said.

The UN pulled out of trial negotiations in February 2002, but a resolution by its members put the tribunal back on the table this year.

Corell noted that after the agreement is signed today, it must be ratified by the Cambo­dian Na­tional Assembly.

He said, “There are a number of practical things that have to be done, but of course we have to see first what the National As­sembly” decides.

The Assembly, however, has been paralyzed in past weeks by a lack of quorum, as the July 27 general elections approach.

Observers say it is unlikely the trial agreement will be debated until the new government is an­nounced in September.

Corell also said issuance of the first Khmer Rouge indictments would be an issue for co-prosecutors to decide.

“It’s far too early. It is the prosecutor who will decide that, or, in this case, the co-prosecutors,” Corell said.

“[The co-prosecutors] would have to get organized first and then decide on a strategy and come to a conclusion on how they will proceed,” he said.

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