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Rights group warns Cambodia Khmer Rouge trials threatened by credibility problems

[JURIST] The first trial in the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) [official website; JURIST news archive] is in danger of being tainted by the body's failure to meet international fair trial standards [HRW press release], Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] said Saturday. The ECCC will begin its prosecution of former Khmer Rouge [BBC backgrounder] leaders with Kaing Guek Eav [JURIST report], better known as "Duch," on Tuesday. HRW claims political interference is apparent in the prosecution's approach of trying few of the possible former Khmer Rouge leaders, in the name of "national reconciliation." HRW called on the international community, which is providing financial support for the tribunal, to demand that such concerns over corruption and political influence be addressed.

HRW's plea follows the release of an Open Society Justice Initiative [advocacy website] report [JURIST report], which raised similar concerns last week. UN and Cambodian officials called for anti-corruption measures [JURIST report] in December after allegations were made of kickbacks for judicial appointments. ECCC judges denied [JURIST report] the corruption allegations in January, stating that they had no reason to pay kickbacks to government officials. A New Zealand judge serving on the ECCC insisted [JURIST report] in an August address to colleagues that the genocide trials "are so important for the people of Cambodia [that they] must not be tainted by corruption." The Khmer Rouge regime is generally held responsible for the genocide of an estimated 1.7 million Cambodians [PPU backgrounder] between 1975 and 1979.

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