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Cambodia genocide tribunal facing political interference: lawyer

The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) [official website; JURIST news archive] faces harmful opposition and political interference from the Cambodian government, the chief defense lawyer said Wednesday. Announcing his resignation, Richard Rogers said that the tribunal, established by the UN and the Cambodian government to prosecute former Khmer Rouge [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] leaders, may be unable to continue its prosecutions [AP report] if the political opposition continues. Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen [BBC profile] said last month that the government will not allow the ECCC to prosecute [JURIST report] low-ranking Khmer Rouge officials. Hun Sen was formerly a Khmer Rouge officer, along with many of his closest allies. Rights group Open Society Justice Initiative [advocacy website] published a report [text, PDF] Wednesday recommending that the ECCC try Khmer Rouge cases instead of local Cambodian courts. The report acknowledges the intense political opposition to the trials and argues that only the ECCC would be able to uphold "international fair trial standards" despite political influence in the country. The group encouraged the UN and other international participants to continue supporting the tribunal [press release].

Last month, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official website] insisted that the ECCC will decide whether to prosecute [JURIST report] additional Khmer Rouge officers as part of an "international judicial process." Ban called for those responsible to be held accountable [text] for the tragic events that allegedly caused the death of more than two million civilians between 1975 and 1979. In September, the ECCC indicted [JURIST report] four former Khmer Rouge leaders who have been detained since 2007 and are charged with crimes against humanity, genocide, grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions and offenses under the Cambodian Criminal Code 1956. The ECCC handed down its first conviction [JURIST report] of a former Khmer Rouge official in July. Kaing Guek Eav [case materials; JURIST news archive], also known as "Duch," was found guilty of crimes against humanity and of violating the 1949 Geneva Conventions. In August, lawyers for Duch filed a notice of appeal [JURIST report] of his conviction, and in September, the prosecution filed its own notice of appeal [JURIST report] seeking to increase Kaing's term of imprisonment.

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