U.N. Quits Efforts to Create 'Killing Fields' Tribunal
Byline: Betsy Pisik, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
NEW YORK - The United Nations has thrown up its hands and, after more than four years of negotiations, walked away from the creation of a special court to try the perpetrators of Cambodia's "Killing Fields" massacres.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has asked the U.N. legal department to discontinue its efforts to create a special court, saying a foreign prosecutor and judges could not be bound by Cambodian national law.
"The U.N. concluded that as currently envisaged, the Cambodian court would not guarantee independence, impartiality and objectivity, which is required by the U.N. for it to cooperate with such a court," U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard said.
The organization has been working with Phnom Penh since June 1997 to create a special international tribunal that would hear charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity perpetrated during the 1975-79 Khmer Rouge rule. Executions, overwork, starvation and displacement claimed an estimated 1.7 million lives during the communist revolution and sent countless others over the borders into Thailand and Vietnam.
After years of fruitless discussions with the United Nations, the Cambodian parliament in August passed a law setting up a special national court to prosecute the Khmer Rouge, despite U.N. pleas to wait until a bilateral agreement could be signed.
"It has been the United Nations' consistent position that the organization cannot be bound by a national law," said Hans Corell, the undersecretary-general of the Office of Legal Affairs and a chief negotiator for the Phnom Penh court.
The Cambodian mission to the United Nations was aware of the letter but declined to comment yesterday.
The Cambodian government has long blamed the United Nations for creating unreasonable delays in setting up the court.
"If the U.N. keeps raising this or that problem, this matter will never end," Foreign Minister Hor Nam Hong told Reuters on Jan. 24.
"We want the U.N. to help us try the Khmer Rouge very soon," he said, warning that the former leaders "are so old, they could die before a trial."
Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge leader known as "Brother No. 1," died in his sleep in 1998 in his hut on the northern border with Thailand, and other high-ranking Khmer Rouge officials have died in similar circumstances. …