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"A long and torturous path that this agreement has still to take"
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Monday, 15 January, 2001, 08:11 GMT
Khmer tribunal law passed by Senate
Victims' skulls
The brutal regime left skulls around the country
Cambodia's Senate has approved a law to create a tribunal to prosecute former leaders of the Khmer Rouge government accused of genocide.

All 51 deputies present in the 61-seat Senate voted for the draft law to be passed without any changes.

Khmer Rouge  photographed many of their victims
Almost every Cambodian family lost relatives to the Khmer Rouge
An estimated 1.7 million Cambodians died from starvation, disease or execution between 1975 and 1979, during the Khmer Rouge regime led by Pol Pot.

Already passed by the lower legislative house, the draft law now requires approval from the Constitutional Council, King Norodom Sihanouk and the United Nations.

The legislation ended months of deadlock over exactly what form the trials should take.

'The Butcher' held

But officials have said it could still take many months to set up a tribunal.
Ta Mok
Ta Mok could go before the tribunal

Mass trials are not expected, but it is thought that up to 30 men, many in their 70s, would be prosecuted under the tribunal.

Prime Minister Hun Sen has said he expects the tribunal to start work this year.

The first suspects to face trial have yet to be named, but one of the regime's most ruthless commanders, Ta Mok - nicknamed "The Butcher" - and chief executioner Kang Kek Leu are being held in jail pending trial.

No Khmer Rouge leader has ever appeared in court to answer for the deaths.

Prime Minister Hun Sen
Hun Sen has warned against trying Ieng Sary, Pol Pot's brother-in-law
Many surviving leaders have lived in quiet retirement while Pol Pot himself died in his jungle hideout in 1998.

Other surviving senior leaders include Nuon Chea - known as Brother Number Two - and Khieu Samphan, who both live peacefully in Pailin, a town near the Thai border.

The prime minister has cautioned, however, against trying Pol Pot's former foreign minister and brother-in-law, Ieng Sary, to the concern of activists.

UN negotiations

The head of the government task force on the trial, Sok An, told journalists that he believed negotiations with the UN over the legislation would be resolved soon.

The UN had asked for some revisions in the draft law, which is based on American proposals.

Pol Pot dead
Pol Pot died in April 1998
Under the tribunal, both Cambodian and foreign prosecutors and judges will jointly indict defendants and reach verdicts.

The foreign judges would be a minority, but would hold the power of veto over decisions.

The arrangement was a compromise between Cambodian officials, who wanted to run it on their own, and the UN, which pressed for foreign control.

The Khmer Rouge took power with their brutal form of radical communism in 1975, declaring it Year Zero and forcing millions to work on the land, in what became the country's "killing fields".

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See also:

13 Jan 01 | Asia-Pacific
UN seeks Khmer tribunal changes
02 Jan 01 | Asia-Pacific
Cambodia backs genocide law
06 Jul 00 | Asia-Pacific
Khmer Rouge genocide deal
14 Apr 00 | Asia-Pacific
Masters of the killing fields
16 Apr 00 | Asia-Pacific
25 years since 'Year Zero'
17 Apr 98 | Asia-Pacific
Pol Pot's death confirmed
14 May 99 | Asia-Pacific
Cambodia's chief executioner charged
14 Apr 00 | Asia-Pacific
Pol Pot: Life of a tyrant
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