News

US Support for Khmer Rouge Tribunal Depends on International Standards

Cambodia observed a moment of silence Friday to remember the brutal reign of the Khmer Rouge. Even though more than 25 years have elapsed since the ouster of the Khmer Rouge, Cambodia is only now beginning the process of trying those responsible for Cambodia's killing fields. A senior U.S. diplomat is urging the Cambodian government and the United Nations to uphold international standards in selecting judges for a tribunal.

The U.S. ambassador-at-large for war crimes issues, Pierre-Richard Prosper, came to the Cambodian capital this week to discuss with government officials the conditions for U.S. involvement in a trial of former leaders of the Khmer Rouge regime.

The Khmer Rouge killed more than 1.5 million people from overwork, starvation or murder between 1975 and 1979, as it annihilated Cambodia's intellectual class, monetary system and culture in a bid to create an agrarian utopia.

Mr. Prosper says Washington would like to be part of the tribunal process.

"The United States hopes and wants to be in a position, where we will be able to support this, both politically and financially," he said. "But in order to do so, as many of you know, we need to believe, and our Congress needs to be shown, that this process will meet international standards."

Mr. Prosper says the United States would consider supporting the trial only if it is fair and free of corruption and political manipulation - a stiff requirement for a country criticized by the United Nations and the World Bank for rampant graft in its government and judicial system.

The U.S. official said the appointment of independent Cambodian judges would be critical in determining whether the process meets international standards. Mr. Prosper said the United Nations should use similar standards in choosing its judges for the tribunal.

"We hope that the United Nations takes great care as it evaluates the candidates for the positions here," he said. " Because what we don't need is for international personnel here to complicate matters, or make them worse."

The executive secretary to the Cambodian government's Khmer Rouge tribunal task force, Sean Visoth, says the government is aware of the weaknesses of its legal system. He says Cambodia and the United Nations had worked hard to set criteria for selecting judges who would meet the highest standards.

Still, human rights groups have expressed concern that the judges and prosecutors chosen would be susceptible to pressure from the government, led by Prime Minister Hun Sen, a former Khmer Rouge soldier.

Cambodian women pray in front of display of Khmer Rouge victims' skulls at Killing Fields memorial sight Choeung Ek
Pol Pot, the leader of the Khmer Rouge, died in 1998. But the court could try his top comrades, including Nuon Chea, the second in command, former Khmer Rouge president Khieu Samphan and ex-foreign minister Ieng Sary, who are all still free.

The $56 million trial is set to last three years once it begins, but the process is stalled due to a lack of funds. U.N. member nations have pledged about $38 million, with Cambodia expected to provide the rest of the money. The government is calling on donor countries for aid to fulfill its obligation.

Mr. Prosper says the United States has no deadline to decide on whether to support the trial, as it waits for Cambodia to present its selection of judges.

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs