Sunday, February 12, 2006

Progress on the Khmer Rouge Tribunal

The UN and the Cambodian government have set up an administrative office in Phnom Penh for the hybrid tribunal that will try former leaders of the Khmer Rouge, who are accused of murdering nearly 2 million people during the 1970s. The establishment of the office marks the transition from the planning stage to the actual functioning of the court, which will be known – easily breaking the record for the longest name of an international tribunal – as the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia for the Prosecution of Crimes Committed during the Period of Democratic Kampuchea.

According to the agreement between Cambodia and the UN, the Trial Chamber will have three Cambodian judges and two international judges, while the Appeals Chamber will have four Cambodian judges and three foreign judges. The judges should be elected within the next six months, with the first prosecutions intended to commence in early 2007. The tribunal will have jurisdiction over serious violations of Cambodian and international law committed between April 17, 1975, and January 6, 1979 – the period during which the Khmer Rouge was in power.

Only two Khmer Rouge leaders are currently in detention: Ta Mok, the former head of Cambodia’s south-western region known as “the Butcher”; and Kang Kek leu, known as Duch, the head of the notorious Tuol Sleng interrogation center. Both have been charged with genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. The architect of the Khmer Rouge regime, “Brother Number One” Pol Pot, died in 1998, but other leaders, including ''Brother Number Two'' Nuon Chea, former head of state Khieu Samphan, and former foreign minister leng Sary, are living free in Cambodia.

The three-year budget for the trials is about $56.3 million, $43 million from the UN and $13.3 million from Cambodia.