The UN-backed Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) [official website; JURIST news archive] announced Tuesday that the trial [press release] of the surviving Khmer Rouge [JURIST news archive; BBC backgrounder] leaders will begin on Monday, November 21. The prosecution will have two days for opening statements followed by half a day of opening statements for the defense. The first segment of the trial is expected to conclude by December 16 for Christmas recess and will resume after the holiday break on January 9. The four defendants have been indicted [AP report] on charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide, religious persecution, homicide and torture. UN under-secretary general for legal affairs Patricia O'Brien will visit Cambodia [Bangkok Post report] this week to discuss concerns over political interference at the Khmer Rouge trial. Her visit was announced after last week's resignation of a German judge over statements made by the Cambodian government.
Last week, rights groups urged the UN [JURIST report] to assure that Cambodia will not interfere in a tribunal established by the UN charged with investigating the communist Khmer Rouge regime of the 1970s. The pressure for UN action results from the resignation of Siegfried Blunk [JURIST report], one of the judges for the ECCC, who blamed political interference for his decision. In September, the ECCC ordered the trials of four alleged Khmer Rouge leaders be split into a series of smaller trials [JURIST report]. The ECCC said that the separation of trials will allow the tribunal to deliberate more quickly in the case against the four elderly defendants.