Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The Khmer Rouge on trial... or not

By Michael J.W. Stickings

A couple of months ago I wrote about the tribunal that has been set up in Cambodia to examine the genocidal crimes committed by Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge three decades ago -- and to judge the perpetrators. There was criticism of the process, but the government seemed committed to it.

Well, commitment or no, "procedural differences" now threaten to sink the trials entirely, as the BBC is reporting: "Foreign judges want full international legal standards, while the Cambodians say local law must take precedence." Indeed, "there is a real possibility that the trials will collapse before they have even started," and "[t]he international judges have made it clear that they see this week's meeting [with the Cambodian judges] as the final chance to make sure the trials meet international standards". If no agreement is reached, the trials would likely be halted even before they'd begun.

There has been precious little justice for the Khmer Rouge despite the heinous crimes it committed both while in power and while in opposition both to the Vietnam-backed puppet government that was installed in 1979 and to the more legitimate governments that came to power after the Vietnamese occupation ended in 1989. Now, with many of its former leaders already dead, including Pol Pot and Ta Mok, there may be no more justice at all.

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