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Last Updated: Saturday, 28 April 2007, 09:35 GMT 10:35 UK
Khmer Rouge trials a step closer
By Guy De Launey
BBC News, Pnomh Penh

Trials for the former leaders of the Khmer Rouge have moved a step closer.

Cambodia's Bar Association has dropped a demand that foreign lawyers taking part in the process should pay thousands of dollars in fees.

It was the main sticking point which had prevented local and UN-appointed legal officials agreeing on the ground rules for the trials.

After almost a year of wrangling, the way is nearly clear for the special courts to start work in earnest.

Divisions exposed

More than a million people died under Khmer Rouge rule in Cambodia in the 1970s.

The bar association will now ask for a US$500 (250) payment from each foreign lawyer hoping to represent clients and the ground rules for the trials may finally be approved.

The international judges had refused to move forward unless the bar association backed down.

They said the fees might deprive defendants or witnesses of the counsel of their choice - and leave the whole process vulnerable to legal challenges.

The international side may have achieved their goal - but the argument exposed the extent of the divisions between local and UN-appointed staff at the courts.

As the row rumbled on, the two sides exchanged strong words in press releases from the courts' public affairs office.

The future of the trials may depend on whether those relationships can be repaired.

The next step is to call a meeting to approve the ground rules. But agreement cannot be taken for granted. A similar meeting last year ended in disarray.

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06 Dec 06 |  Asia-Pacific
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20 Nov 06 |  Asia-Pacific
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30 Apr 05 |  Asia-Pacific
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05 Oct 04 |  Asia-Pacific
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17 Mar 03 |  Asia-Pacific
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14 Apr 00 |  Asia-Pacific

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