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The BBC's Jonathan Head
"Cambodia will still need many more years to come to terms with its terrible past"
 real 56k

Judge Richard Goldstone
is a former Chief War Crimes Prosecutor
 real 56k

Wednesday, 11 July, 2001, 06:07 GMT 07:07 UK
Cambodia votes to try Khmer Rouge
Skulls
Nearly two million people were killed under the Khmer Rouge
The Cambodian National Assembly has passed the final legislation enabling the setting up of a tribunal to try former Khmer Rouge leaders for the genocide of the late 1970s.


We have fulfilled all the main chapters of this law

Sok An, head of taskforce
The legislation was passed with 86 members of parliament out of 88 supporting the new laws.

The Cambodian Government and the United Nations have worked together on plans for the unique tribunal that would have both Cambodian and UN-appointed judges and prosecutors.

Khmer Rouge  photographed many of their victims
Almost every Cambodian family lost relatives to the regime
The long-delayed legislation still has to go through the Cambodian Senate and to be approved by King Norodom Sihanouk.

After that it will be examined by the UN to determine whether it meets international legal standards.

"I think this law will not return back to this place again," said Sok An, head of the government's taskforce for drafting the legislation.

"I see that there are no more obstacles because we have fulfilled all the main chapters of this law and everybody has agreed."

Judge Richard Goldstone, former chief prosecutor at the international war crimes tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, told the BBC it was essential to ensure the tribunal was not politically driven, and had the confidence of the Cambodian people.

Slow process

If the UN approves the law, a memorandum of understanding will be signed with the Cambodian Government and the tribunal can move forward.

Cambodia and the UN agreed in April 2000 on a formula to try former Khmer Rouge leaders - blamed for some 1.7 million deaths during their 1975-79 "killing fields" regime.

But the process has made little real progress since.

Legislation to create the special tribunal was on the verge of approval by King Sihanouk back in February, but Prime Minister Hun Sen had wanted all references to the death penalty removed.

Commitment doubts

Cambodia abolished the death penalty nearly a decade ago with its new constitution and the maximum punishment was changed to life in prison.

The delays have led many observers to question Cambodia's commitment to holding a trial with UN participation.

A Khmer Rouge trial is a divisive issue in Cambodia where many former leaders of the regime live free, protected by a government amnesty given in return for laying down their weapons and ending decades of civil war.

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See also:

13 Jan 01 | Asia-Pacific
UN seeks Khmer tribunal changes
15 Jan 01 | Asia-Pacific
Khmer tribunal law passed by Senate
02 Jan 01 | Asia-Pacific
Cambodia backs genocide law
06 Jul 00 | Asia-Pacific
Khmer Rouge genocide deal
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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