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UN to Review Cambodia's Tribunal Law - 2001-08-11

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan says the world organization must carefully review a new Cambodian law that establishes a special court for the prosecution of former Khmer Rouge leaders.

Cambodia's King Norodom Sihanouk gave final approval to the law on Friday. It provides for the establishment of a special court for the prosecution of those responsible for the Khmer Rouge reign of terror in Cambodia between 1975 and 1979. Nearly two million people are believed to have died as a result of Khmer Rouge policies.

Cambodia wants to work with the United Nations in carrying out the trials and the law does provide for some international judges and prosecutors on the court. However, critics say the law does not give the international representatives enough power and that relatively inexperienced Cambodian judicial authorities will have too much influence.

If the United Nations does participate, the organization's credibility would be at stake. Secretary-General Annan says his staff must now carefully review the provisions of the Cambodian law. However, Mr. Annan's spokesman, Manoel de Almeida e Silva, indicated the Secretary-General hopes U.N. participation can continue. "The United Nations is prepared to continue to work closely with the government [of Cambodia]," he said. "To assist it to undertake a trial that will finally bring Khmer Rouge leaders to justice and provide a measure of accountability for the heinous crimes they committed against their fellow Cambodians and their country."

Mr. Almeida e Silva said U.N. participation will be contingent on whether the Cambodian law conforms to a previous understanding between Cambodia and the United Nations.

It is not clear how many former Khmer Rouge leaders would stand trial. Just two are currently in custody and Pol Pot, the movement's supreme leader, died in 1998.