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UN Official: Khmer Rouge Leaders Must Face Justice - 2002-08-22


The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights urges that leaders of the Khmer Rouge be brought to justice for their atrocities in Cambodia. Mary Robinson says that doing so will help end the culture of impunity that plagues the country.

Prime Minister Hun Sen and Mary Robinson did not discuss the issue of a trial for the Khmer Rouge when they met during Ms. Robinson's two-day visit. Still, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights told reporters she wants to emphasize the importance of finding justice for the past to push the country forward. "The issue of impunity is extremely important and I hope a way will be found to address justice issues in the past, as well as tackling the grave problem of impunity in the present," she says. "This country has suffered terribly and there's a need for a healing process based on a sense that, at least in the worst cases, justice has been done. I hope both Cambodia and the U.N. will reach an agreement on this."

A recent letter to Prime Minister Hun Sen from U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan renewed hope that negotiations might resume on trials for the Khmer Rouge leaders. The Khmer Rouge was responsible for the deaths of more than one million people during its brutal rule in the late 1970s.

Mr. Annan abruptly ended negotiations on a joint trial early this year, after saying that a Cambodian law to set up a tribunal did not meet international standards of justice. Mr. Annan said in his recent letter that a mandate from the U.N. General Assembly or the Security Council would put him "in a position to be able to contribute to bringing the leaders of the Khmer Rouge to justice."

Thursday, Prime Minister Hun Sen welcomed the letter and called on countries around the world to support the proposed mandate.