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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Cambodian ambassador criticizes UN envoy

By EDITH M. LEDERER -- Associated Press Writer

UNITED NATIONS (AP) Cambodia's U.N. ambassador complained to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that the U.N. human rights investigator who just visited the country insulted the Khmer government and displayed "unacceptable" arrogance.

In a letter to Ban obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press, Ambassador Kosal Sea said the government is now considering whether the U.N. special envoy for human rights in Cambodia, Yash Ghai, is "still necessary," as the 1991 Paris peace agreement between opposing factions stipulates.

During a Dec. 1-10 visit to Cambodia, Ghai heaped criticism on the government for alleged rights violations and called the judiciary "a perversity." He predicted that Cambodians eventually were "going to rise" against the government.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has vowed to never meet Ghai, accusing him of focusing only on the negative and ignoring the government's efforts to address human rights concerns. Hun Sen shunned the Kenyan constitutional lawyer during his recent trip.

International human rights groups on Tuesday backed Ghai and urged the government to engage with him. The groups include Human Rights Watch, the Asian Human Rights Commission, the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development, the International Federation for Human Rights and the World Organization Against Torture.

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Cambodian PM says ex-Khmer Rouge officials have comforts in detention

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) - A U.N.-backed tribunal is holding former Khmer Rouge head of state Khieu Samphan in a comfortable room that bears no resemblance to the notorious torture cells his regime operated, Cambodia's prime minister said Thursday.

Khieu Samphan, 76, has been detained at the tribunal in the capital Phnom Penh since his arrest Nov. 19. The genocide trials are scheduled to begin next year, and Khieu Samphan is one of five high-ranking former Khmer Rouge members detained.

«He was offered a place with good conditions but he still complains about the difficulties of staying there,» Prime Minister Hun Sen said, noting the facility was nothing like the murderous Khmer Rouge's infamous torture center, Tuol Sleng.

«He ordered people jailed at Tuol Sleng for interrogation and torture, but he never discusses the difficulties of those people,» Hun Sen said.

Khieu Samphan's lawyer had complained the room was too small, according to tribunal spokesman Reach Sambath.

Detention cells at the tribunal have fans, beds with mattresses, radio, television, a window and a private toilet, he said.

The long-delayed tribunal is seeking accountability for atrocities during the Khmer Rouge's 1975-79 rule, under which an estimated 1.7 million people died from starvation, disease, overwork and execution.

Khieu Samphan was arrested at a Phnom Penh hospital after undergoing treatment for a stroke. He has been charged with crimes against humanity and war crimes.

He also faces charges related to his support of the Khmer Rouge policy of committing «murder, extermination, imprisonment, persecution on political grounds and other inhumane acts.

Four other surviving Khmer Rouge officials are in custody at the tribunal, including Kaing Guek Eav _ alias Duch _ who ran Tuol Sleng, Ieng Sary, the Khmer Rouge's ex-foreign minister, and his wife Ieng Thirith, its social affairs minister. All three were charged with crimes against humanity; Ieng Sary was also charged with war crimes.

Former Khmer Rouge ideologist Nuon Chea is also awaiting trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

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