Long odds on rebels appearing for trial

PUBLISHED : Friday, 11 October, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 11 October, 1996, 12:00am

There is little chance of Khmer Rouge leaders being brought to justice for their part in the deaths of close to two million people between 1975 and 1979, according to legal experts and UN officials in Phnom Penh.

Fresh speculation over the possibility of an international trial for the Khmer Rouge was triggered by the Cambodian Government's controversial decision to grant an amnesty to former Khmer Rouge foreign minister Ieng Sary.

The amnesty gives Ieng Sary immunity from a 1979 Vietnamese-organised show trial during which he was sentenced to death in absentia, and a 1994 law banning the Khmer Rouge.

The Cambodian Government has stressed, however, that the amnesty does not preclude prosecution by an international tribunal if he is implicated in crimes against humanity.

Second Prime Minister Hun Sen, King Norodom Sihanouk and Khmer politicians have said they would support Ieng Sary and other guerilla leaders being brought before an international tribunal.

'This is not just a Cambodian issue, the Khmer Rouge's crimes are crimes against all humanity,' said Lao Mong Hay, director of the Khmer Institute for Democracy.

He believes the international community should prosecute Khmer Rouge leaders.

Legal experts and United Nations officials in Cambodia say there is little chance of such a trial ever taking place.

Under Chapter Seven of the UN charter, the Security Council is only allowed to investigate and prosecute war crimes in the event that they present a global threat to peace and security.

'Bosnia and Rwanda may be examples where this applies, but not in Cambodia's case, so the council would not be able to act,' one legal expert said.

Bringing the Khmer Rouge to trial would mean facing many other problems.

'Any move by the UN to try the Khmer Rouge would also face opposition by countries such as China and Vietnam, who would not like to see their past involvement in Cambodia dredged up,' a senior UN official in Phnom Penh said.

The most crucial element missing is a lack of political will on the part of the Cambodian Government to push for a trial.

The country's two defence ministers yesterday visited the Pailin base of dissident Khmer Rouge guerillas to discuss their terms for a speedy merger of government and rebel forces, military officials said.



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