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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

US War Crimes Envoy Seeking Support for Tribunal


In this photo released by the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, Nuon Chea, center, who was Pol Pot's No. 2 and the group's chief ideologist, sits during the second trial of the top leaders of Khmer Rouge in the court hall of the U.N.-backed war crimes tribunal, on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Tuesday, June 28, 2011.
 
 
The US war crimes ambassador, Stephen Rapp, is in Phnom Penh to support the UN-backed tribunal as a hearing for four jailed Khmer Rouge leaders gets under away.

Rapp said Tuesday that the trial of Case 002, for four top leaders of the regime, was “the most important in the world.”

Former Khmer Rouge leaders Nuon Chea, Khieu Samphan, Ieng Sary and Ieng Thirith are facing charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and others for their leadership roles in a regime that oversaw the deaths of up to 1.7 million people. They have all denied the charges against them.

Rapp said their trial has been a high priority for US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

“I believe that at this time it is the most important in the world,” Rapp said. “The crimes still have an effect on everyone in this country.”

Rapp told reporters he is meeting court officials, judges, prosecutors, investigating judges and representatives of victims. He will be working with donors “to make sure this court has resources that it needs to do the job.”

The hybrid tribunal has suffered a series of financial setbacks and has battled repeated accusations of mismanagement and corruption—as well as political interference. The investigating judges are in a public row with the UN prosecutor over their handling of a third case, which they hastily concluded in April to the dismay of victims and
legal monitors.

Those issues are out of the limelight this week, however, as Case 002 proceeds.

Bernard Valero, spokesman for France’s foreign ministry, said in the statement this trial, the court’s second, will uncover those responsible for the most egregious crimes enacted by the Khmer Rouge while it was in power.

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In Hearing, Ieng Sary Defense Seeks His Release

 
Former Khmer Rouge foreign minister Ieng Sary (2nd row from front, L) and former social affairs minister Ieng Thirith (2nd row from front, 2nd R) sit at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) on the outskirts of Phnom Penh June 27, 2011.
 
 
Defense lawyers for Ieng Sary, the former Khmer Rouge foreign minister, said Tuesday he should be released from the UN-backed tribunal, claiming he was already tried for genocide under the Vietnamese occupation when the movement was ousted in 1979 and was protected by an amnesty deal years later.

In the second day of a preliminary hearing that marks the opening of a landmark trial of four former Khmer Rouge leaders, defense told the court its attempt to try Ieng Sary amounted to double jeopardy. Ieng Sary was tried in absentia at the Vietnamese court and sentenced to death for genocide, in what most legal experts consider an illegitimate trial.

Ieng Sary went on to help lead the Khmer Rouge in a guerrilla insurgency that lasted nearly two decades. He defected with 20,000 soldiers in 1996, under a broad government amnesty. Legal experts say the current tribunal is unlikely to accept the defense arguments, given the wide array of serious crimes he is now facing.

Ieng Sary is charged with war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and other crimes related to the Khmer Rouge leadership, under which up to 1.7 million Cambodians died. He has denied those charges, as have defendants Nuon Chea, Khieu Samphan and Ieng Thirith.

In interviews with VOA Khmer, former Khmer Rouge cadre who were visiting the court Monday said they want their former leaders to be freed or have reduced sentences, in part due to their old age.

Khim Kheng, 53, a former cook and cleaner at the foreign affairs ministry, led by suspect Ieng Sary, said she only saw him commit good acts.

“He told us to save food in order to help poor people in rural areas,” she said. “About torturing his own people, I never saw that.”

In meetings held at the ministry, Ieng Sary discussed poverty reduction and development, she said. He never discussed a policy of killing, and when the Khmer Rouge was ousted, all of the officials from the ministry were still alive.

Um Ros, 82, a former Khmer Rouge soldier in the Southeastern Zone, said soldiers there did not have a policy of killing but built boats for people to use for fishing. The killing was the work of soldiers in the Southwest Zone, led by “The Butcher” Ta Mok, he said.

“My first request is that Duch and Khieu Samphan be freed, because the two of them were used by the top leaders,” he said. “Pol Pot, Ieng Sary, Ta Mok and Nuon Chea should be punished heavily, because they ordered people killed.”
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Cambodia’s ruling party marks founding anniversary

The ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) held a meeting in Phnom Penh on June 28 to mark its 60th founding anniversary (June 28).
Addressing the meeting, CPP President Chea Sim affirmed his Party’s consistent ideal and goal of tirelessly striving for the Cambodian people since the CPP, formerly known as the People's Revolutionary Party of Kampuchea, was established 60 years ago.

He stressed that the CPP gathered the people to overthrow the Khmer Rouge genocide regime (1975-1979) and win the victory on January 7, 1979.

The CPP leader said attributed the victory and national recovery associate with great national unity strength, patriotism and impartial, timely and effective assistance of friend countries and the peace-loving force on the world.

Chea Sim also reviewed Cambodia ’s achievements in process of the national concord and rebuilding under the CPP’s leadership.

The country posted an economic growth rate of 5.9% in 2010, which is expected to be 6% in 2011 and 7% in the following years, he said. Cambodia ’s poverty reduction rate dropped to 26% last year, and it is likely to decrease to 19.5% by 2015.

At the meeting, the CPP leader voiced his Party’s support for the tribunal on the Khmer Rouge’s crimes.

The CPP will continue to enter in league with the FUNCINPEC and co-operate with other patriotic forces in the society, he said.

He expressed his belief that elections of senate, lower house and localities in the coming time will be conducted freely and equally.

The CPP continues to support its Vice President and Prime Minister Hun Sen to stand for the post as prime minister of the Royal Government of Cambodia for the fifth term, Chea Sim added.
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