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Tuesday, 7 August, 2001, 10:43 GMT 11:43 UK
Pol Pot's lieutenants
Pol Pot with fellow Khmer Rouge leaders Ieng Sary, left, and Son Sen
Pol Pot with Khmer Rouge leaders Ieng Sary, left, and Son Sen
By Jeremy Hillman in Phnom Penh

If the United Nations and the Cambodian government can agree on a formula for a human rights tribunal, their next challenge will be to decide who should be indicted.

There are several senior members of the Khmer Rouge still alive in Cambodia - but it isn't clear yet whether they would all be brought before the tribunal.

The man most wanted for crimes against humanity in Cambodia will never be brought to justice.

Pol Pot, the founder and unchallenged leader of the Khmer Rouge, died in a camp along the border with Thailand in 1998.

Strongly implicated

Several of his key lieutenants, though, are strongly implicated in the brutal rule of the Khmer Rouge from 1975 to 1979.

Duch, centre, surrounded by pictures of his victims

Two of them are already in custody - Ta Mok, nicknamed "The Butcher", a brutal regional commander, and the man known as Duch, who ran the notorious Tuol Sleng torture centre where thousands were killed.

But others are still at liberty and there are doubts over whether they will ever be brought before the tribunal.

Two of the top Khmer Rouge leaders, Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan live in Pailin, the one-time jungle headquarters of the movement when it was fighting the Hun Sen government.

Ta Mok
Ta Mok: "The Butcher"
Both deny knowing anything about the killings and atrocities that went on, but documents prepared by human rights researchers suggest that at the very least they were fully informed.

Another leader, Ieng Sary, the former Khmer Rouge foreign minister, is more problematic, because he was given an amnesty by King Sihanouk in 1996 when he agreed to surrender with some of the Khmer Rouge forces.

Civil war fears

The United Nations says such an amnesty cannot protect someone from prosecution by the special tribunal, but Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has warned that going after Ieng Sary could reignite a civil war in Cambodia.

Ieng Sary has close links with China, which was the Khmer Rouge's main backer, and the Chinese Government still opposes the tribunal.

Even if indictments are issued against the surviving members of the Khmer Rouge, the tribunal will have to move quickly - many of them are old and in poor health.

Like their leader Pol Pot, they may not live long enough to answer for their roles in Cambodia's gruesome past.

See also:

23 Jul 01 | Asia-Pacific
Khmer Rouge tribunal approved
11 Jul 01 | Asia-Pacific
Cambodia votes to try Khmer Rouge
15 Jan 01 | Asia-Pacific
Khmer tribunal law passed by Senate
13 Jan 01 | Asia-Pacific
UN seeks Khmer tribunal changes
02 Jan 01 | Asia-Pacific
Masters of the killing fields
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