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Rights group accuses Cambodia of obstructing Khmer Rouge genocide trials

[JURIST] The Cambodian government is interfering with the adoption of court rules [press release] to govern the upcoming Khmer Rouge genocide trials, advocacy group Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Tuesday. Tribunal judges convened last month to establish court rules for the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) [official website], which is scheduled to begin trials for surviving Khmer Rouge leaders in mid-2007, but they failed to agree [JURIST report] on the Draft Internal Rules [PDF text] and delayed making a final decision. HRW accused the Cambodian government of being responsible for the delay and said, in part:

As documented in numerous reports by the United Nations, international legal organizations and Cambodian NGOs, the Cambodian judiciary and legal system remain under the tight control of the government. The government has ensured the appointment to the ECCC of Cambodian judges, prosecutors and security personnel who are politically loyal to the prime minister, the deputy prime minister and the national police chief, Hok Lundy. Such political control mechanisms are aimed at preventing judges and prosecutors from acting independently and conducting fair trials free from political interference.

Throughout the negotiations with the United Nations to establish the ECCC, Hun Sen and the Cambodian government engaged in a pattern of delay and obstruction...The government has long tried to bog down efforts at creating the tribunal and, now, at making it functional, through seemingly endless and often fruitless negotiations, which absorb huge amounts of time, funding and expertise, but result in little or no substantive improvements.
The ECCC was established by a 2001 law [PDF text] to investigate and try those responsible for the 1975-79 Cambodian genocide that led to the deaths of at least 1.5 million Cambodians by execution, forced hardships or starvation in the so-called "Killing Fields."

To date, no top Khmer Rouge [JURIST news archive] officials have faced trial and questions have been raised concerning exactly how many of the Khmer Rouge's top officials will face the tribunal, as several of those responsible for the genocide have died [JURIST report] in recent months and others are in failing health. Prosecutors face significant administrative, legal and linguistic obstacles in preparing cases for trial; their formal investigations only began in July [JURIST report]. AP has more.

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