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Friday, 10 August, 2001, 11:28 GMT 12:28 UK
King signs Khmer Rouge trial law
Choeung Ek memorial
Will those responsible for the Killing Field be tried?
Cambodia's King Norodom Sihanouk has signed legislation for a special tribunal to prosecute members of the Khmer Rouge, responsible for the deaths of almost two million people in the mid-1970s.

It is unclear when the trials - presided over by three Cambodian judges and two foreign judges - will begin, but Prime Minister Hun Sen has said he would like to see prosecutions by the end of the year.

Khmer Rouge leaders
Pol Pot: Died in 1998
Ta Mok: The Butcher, captured and awaiting trial
Kang Kek: Chief executioner, in jail awaiting trial
Ieng Sary: Foreign minister, pardoned
Nuon Chea: Chief political theorist and "Brother Number Two", at liberty
Khieu Samphan: Public apologist, at liberty
Although the king's signature establishes the legislation as Cambodian law, further negotiations with the United Nations are necessary to finalise details of the court.

Critics say the trials will be a whitewash, because many of the most notorious Khmer Rouge leaders have already been given amnesty under a deal in the 1990s to end the country's long-running civil war.

But Prime Minister Hun Sen has said that, if handled incorrectly, the trials might re-ignite civil war, especially if Khmer Rouge leaders who gave themselves up under the amnesty deal are prosecuted.

The Khmer Rouge leader, Pol Pot, died in 1998.

UN reservations

Four years ago, Cambodia asked the United Nations for help in establishing a special tribunal to judge the architects of genocide, but agreement on how it should be set up and run has been elusive.

The UN wanted a panel of international judges, sitting outside Cambodia to run the tribunal; the Cambodians wanted only local judges on the panel.

In the end, a compromise was reached.

Under the agreement, trials will be held on Cambodian soil, but the UN is insisting that international standards of justice must be met when trials begin.

Cambodia says it will not change the legislation approved by both Cambodia's houses of parliament whether the UN approves or not.

But the UN insists it will back out of the whole process if it excludes key figures in the Khmer Rouge regime.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Clive Myrie
"Cambodians want justice"
The BBC's Jonathan Head
"This has been a very long and drawn out process"
Cambodian human rights activist Kek Galabru
"We question whether there is real political will from the government"
See also:

07 Aug 01 | Asia-Pacific
Pol Pot's lieutenants
02 Jan 01 | Asia-Pacific
Cambodia backs genocide law
14 Apr 00 | Asia-Pacific
Pol Pot: Life of a tyrant
02 Jan 01 | Asia-Pacific
Masters of the killing fields
13 Jan 01 | From Our Own Correspondent
Cambodia: Life after death
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