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UN Delegation Reports Progress in Plans for Khmer Rouge Tribunal - 2004-03-18


A U.N. delegation has ended a second week-long mission in Cambodia to work out details for setting up a genocide tribunal for leaders of the Khmer Rouge regime. The head of the delegation says progress was made, and he thinks a budget will be released within the next two weeks.

The coordinator for U.N. assistance to the Khmer Rouge trials, Karsten Herrel, said he and the Cambodian side now know where court officials will work, where the trial will take place and they have a rough idea of the cost for the proceedings.

Mr. Herrel said the cost of the tribunal will likely be more than $50 million. He said within two weeks he expects U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan to release a report to the general assembly announcing the final figure. The United Nations and Cambodian government are to split the costs.

The United Nations will appeal to member states for funding, while Cambodia will use funds from its national budget as well as donations from other countries.

Executive secretary of the Cambodian government's Khmer Rouge tribunal task force, Sean Visoth, said the tribunal will operate for three years. Mr. Herrel said about two-thirds of the court staff will be Cambodian nationals and one third will be international members.

The U.N. official was upbeat that court proceedings would be able to begin soon, since it appears that Cambodia is on its way to resolving its political deadlock. Since general elections on July 27, 2003, the ruling Cambodian People's Party has been unable to form a coalition government. Until Cambodia's National Assembly convenes, last year's tribunal agreement with the United Nations cannot be ratified.

But Prime Minister Hun Sen appears to have pulled together a coalition with the necessary two-thirds of the seats in parliament when he met Monday with the head of the FUNCINPEC Party, Prince Norodom Ranariddh. Mr. Herrel said practical aspects of the trials of former Khmer Rouge leaders will be sorted out by the time the government passes the resolution to have a Khmer Rouge tribunal.

Cities were emptied and an estimated 1.7 million people died by torture, starvation, disease, and overwork during the rule of the Khmer Rouge from 1975 to 1979. Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot died in 1998, but many senior officials such as former head of state Khieu Samphan; so-called Brother Number Two, Nuon Chea; and former Foreign Minister Lieng Sary live in retirement.

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