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UN, Cambodia Agree to Set Up Genocide Court - 2003-06-06


The United Nations and Cambodia have signed an agreement to set up a genocide court to try members of Cambodia's former Khmer Rouge regime.

United Nations legal counsel Hans Corell and Cambodia's Senior Minister Sok An on Friday signed the deal that should finally set up a Khmer Rouge genocide tribunal.

The Khmer Rouge regime, which ruled Cambodia under the name Democratic Kampuchea from 1975 to 1979, is blamed for nearly two million deaths by torture, starvation and overwork.

Although Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot died five years ago, many senior officials still live in comfortable retirement.

In a speech Friday, Minister Sok An told 700 diplomats and dignitaries in Phnom Penh that it was an historic day for Cambodia and all humanity.

Negotiations for a tribunal collapsed last year because the Cambodian government insisted on a tribunal of local and international judges working together. The U.N. pulled out of negotiations but later relented under pressure.

Human rights groups such as Amnesty International object to the set-up, saying a joint staff tribunal gives Cambodia's weak judicial system too much power.

Rights groups worry that Cambodia's courts are riddled with corruption and political influence and will not be able to meet international standards.

But their insistence on a "perfect" tribunal has drawn criticism, and many people feel that a flawed trial of the remaining Khmer Rouge is better than no trial at all.

The U.N. agreement faces one more obstacle, ratification by the country's parliament. That should prove a formality, although it is unlikely to happen until later this year.