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US Cambodia envoy urges new court to try Khmer Rouge genocide suspects promptly

[JURIST] The joint UN-Cambodian court that will try former leaders of the communist Khmer Rouge [JURIST news archive] regime that decimated Cambodia's population in the "killing fields" of the late 1970s must move quickly or risk the deaths of more of the aging genocide suspects, the US ambassador to Cambodia said Tuesday. Ambassador Joseph Mussomeli [official profile], speaking to more than 500 Cambodian commune chiefs at the US Embassy in Phnom Penh, urged the Extraordinary Chambers of Cambodia (EC) [trial task force materials; EC backgrounder] to satisfy a "hunger for justice." According to his prepared remarks [text], Mussomeli said:

The Cambodian genocide stands alone as having failed to bring any of the guilty to justice. From the Nuremberg Trials to the more recent international tribunals to try the mass murderers in Serbia and Rwanda, the victims, their families, and the international community have been given some semblance of justice, some degree of retribution. But not Cambodia.

So some argue that expending scarce funding for a 30-year old crime is absurd, but I hope most Cambodians would disagree. In Cambodia those who were responsible for the genocide for the most part live safe, free, even prosperous lives among the very people they terrorized.
The EC was technically established by a 2001 law [PDF text], but its senior personnel were only sworn in [JURIST report] in July and it is only just beginning its prosecutorial investigations [JURIST report]. Given start-up challenges and the difficulties of securing reliable evidence and witnesses 30 years on from the incidents it is investigating, it is not expected to issue its first indictments until early 2007, and prosecutors have already publicly cautioned [JURIST report] that the process will take months. After Ek Choeun, also known as Ta Mok [Trial Watch profile], went into a coma and died last week [JURIST report], only Kaing Khek Iev, aka Duch, remains in custody [JURIST report]. Other Khmer Rouge leaders survive but are not yet detained. DPA has more.

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