The UN’s special representative for human rights in Cambodia said the current design for the proposed international tribunal of former Khmer Rouge leaders is not one he would have chosen.
“I am an international lawyer,” said Peter Leuprecht, an Austrian who is a law professor in Canada. “If I were to have designed an international tribunal, I would not have designed this one….But now we have to make the best of it.”
Leuprecht spoke to reporters at Hotel Le Royal on the last day of a seven-day visit, his third since being appointed to his position in August.
He said he still believes it is better to have a mixed tribunal, in which international judges outnumber Cambodian judges, than to have no tribunal at all.
“But to be very frank, I believe it will be much more difficult to find competent and independent Cambodian judges for this tribunal than to find competent and independent international judges,” he said. “So I think it will be extremely important to see what Cambodian judges will be nominated for this court.”
Leuprecht said he made clear in his various meetings with government officials that the UN must sign an agreement with the government after the law governing the Khmer Rouge tribunal is approved by Parliament and signed by King Norodom Sihanouk.
On Wednesday, a UN spokesman in New York made a similar statement. Leuprecht said these reminders are “useful” for the government, as well as the media and the public.
He said the law will be “scrutinized very carefully” once the UN receives an official translation.
“If the UN is satisfied with the law, it will certainly not delay the process in any way,” he said.
Unfortunately, Leuprecht said, a memorandum of understanding between the government and the UN Commission on Human Rights office here was not signed during his visit.
UNCHR’s mandate with the government expired in February.
Prime Minister Hun Sen “clearly and strongly expressed his support for the office” in their Tuesday meeting, he said.
However, the memorandum of understanding needs Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Hor Namhong’s signature.
“I didn’t meet the minister this time,” he said. “I do not know the reason.”
Leuprecht said he hopes the agreement will be signed before his next visit in September or October.
Leuprecht said he was “happy” that international donors chose to give the Cambodian government pledges of $560 million at the Consultative Group meeting in Tokyo earlier this month.
He noted that his first recommendation in his first report to the UN on the human rights situation in Cambodia was that international aid to the nation should be increased.
Leuprecht’s second report, which he said would cover a full range of issues but would primarily focus on the issues of land reform and demobilization, will be presented to the UN General Assembly in New York in two to four months.
He said his weeklong visit, in which he traveled to Battambang and Banteay Meanchey provinces, and met with the King, was “fascinating.”
“My education concerning your country continues,” he said. “I am learning a lot.”