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UN Vote Seen on Khmer Rouge Tribunal - 2002-11-19

The United Nations human rights envoy to Cambodia said the General Assembly will vote in coming weeks on a new resolution for a Khmer Rouge tribunal. He said the resolution could be the last opportunity to enlist the United Nations' support in bringing former Khmer Rouge leaders to justice.

United Nation's Special Representative Peter Leuprecht said the U.N. General Assembly will vote on a new resolution by the end of December. The resolution, sponsored by France and Japan, would restart negotiations between the Cambodian government and the world body on setting up a tribunal.

Early this year, frustrated U.N. representatives walked out of negotiations to set up a court to try former Khmer Rouge leaders. They said the Cambodian government could not ensure the trial would meet international standards.

The Khmer Rouge brutally ruled Cambodia in the late 1970s. During that period, more than a million Cambodians were executed, or died of hunger, disease and abuse. So far, no Khmer Rouge leaders have been tried for crimes during their rule.

The new resolution would give the U.N. a mandate to return to Cambodia, and report to members within 90 days on the progress of negotiations.

Mr. Leuprecht said that if the resolution is approved, the General Assembly would then look to the Cambodian government for a clear sign it is willing for it to return. "I believe the text presented is good text and I hope it will be passed by the General Assembly. According to the information I have, the Cambodian government is willing to accept the resolution. If it failed to accept the text, it may be the end of the U.N.'s involvement in the process," he said.

During his week-long visit to Cambodia, the U.N. representative met with King Norodom Sihanouk, Prime Minister Hun Sen, as well as diplomats, non-profit groups and the National Election Committee.

Mr. Leuprecht said during his visit, he focused on judicial reform, prison conditions, land and housing issues, election preparations, and human trafficking of women and children.

Although noting the overall progress in human rights in Cambodia over the past decade, Mr. Leuprecht highlighted problem areas, such as the fact that the sex trade is the third largest employer for women in the country.