UN Human Rights Envoy Urges Speedy Trial KR Tribunal Law Adoption

The UN’s human rights envoy to Cambodia on Saturday urged the government to pass a draft law on trying former Khmer Rouge leaders by early next year.

“I hope that by [my next visit planned in February], the law will be adopted by the parliament and that it will be in line with the agreement reached with the UN,” Peter Leuprecht said before ending his first trip to Cambodia.

The Austrian law professor, who now lives in Montreal, recently replaced former envoy Thomas Hammarberg.

During his one-week stay, Leu­precht met with King Noro­dom Sihanouk, Prime Minister Hun Sen, National Assembly Pres­ident Prince Norodom Ranariddh and other key officials to discuss human rights issues, including the draft law for the Khmer Rouge tribunal, judicial reform and preparations for the upcoming commune elections.

Leuprecht also visited Khmer Rouge officials, Ta Mok and Duch, who are being kept in pre-trial detention at the military prison. Ta Mok, the leader of the last Khmer Rouge holdouts, and Duch, who ran the S-21 torture center, are the only two Khmer Rouge officials facing war crimes charges.

“The two said they were being treated well and both said that they were looking forward to the trial,” Leuprecht said.

Ta Mok and Duch apparently don’t regret their involvement in the regime that reportedly killed more than 1 million people through executions, forced labor and starvation from 1975 to 1979, he said. Duch told Leuprecht he just followed orders to torture and execute opponents of the Khmer Rouge at  S-21. “He didn’t show any feeling of regret or guilt” over his involvement in the mass killing, Leuprecht said.

Leuprecht is expected to present concerns and recommendations to the 57th session of the Commission on Human Rights in Geneva next March and April. The envoy plans to come back to Cambodia before the session, probably in February or March.

“I would like to see lots of progress” in human rights issues on that second visit, he said, adding that he hopes to see “a serious inquiry” into the Nov 24 alleged rebel attack on Phnom Penh which left as many as eight people dead and more than a dozen injured.

Leuprecht said Friday the government did not appear to be over-dramatizing the attack on the capital, but warned the world body was closely monitoring arrests. “The government told me…they didn’t dramatize the event,” he said.

“As far as the situation of those arrested is concerned, our Cam­bodian office is following the event closely. They have requested and obtained access to those detained,” Leuprecht said. “Basic guarantees of due process and of fair trials have to be respected.”

His comments came as the Cambodian Human Rights Ac­tion Committee—an umbrella group of 17 local NGOs—issued a statement condemning authorities for their heavy-handed roundups of people allegedly involved in the violence.

(Ad­ditional reporting by Agence France-Presse)



Related Stories

Latest News

The Weekly DispatchA weekly newsletter from The Cambodia Daily delivering news, analysis and opinion to your inbox. Published every Friday at 11:30am. Sign up today.