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Friday, 8 February, 2002, 22:44 GMT
Cambodia genocide court in disarray
Choeung Ek memorial
Nearly two million people died under the regime
The United Nations has pulled out of the special international court being set up with the Cambodian Government to try former leaders of the murderous Khmer Rouge regime.

The UN legal counsel, Hans Corell, said he had concluded the independence, impartiality and objectivity of the proposed court could not be guaranteed.

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

"We will no longer continue the negotiations," he told a news conference.

There was no immediate comment from Cambodian diplomats.

But US State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the court remained an important project.

"The tribunal is important to help resolve many of the issues that remain in Cambodia," he said.

"We think there are grounds for continuing their discussions".

The UN has been pressing Cambodia to bring former Khmer Rouge leaders to trial for atrocities carried out during their rule between 1975 and 1979.

A spokesman for UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said the Cambodian Government had also rejected the organisation's proposals for providing assistance to the trial.

The main sticking point appears to have been the Cambodian Government's insistence that national law would take precedence over the agreement with the UN in the trials.

Correspondents say the proposed trials are a divisive subject in Cambodia, with some fearful that they will reopen old wounds and plunge the country back into civil war.

Trial delay

Cambodia has been waiting for a UN decision since August last year on their proposals for a tribunal presided over by three Cambodian judges and two foreign judges.

Pol Pot
Pol Pot oversaw the genocide
Late last year, Prime Minister Hun Sen criticised the UN for the delay, asking for a clear "Yes or no". He said if the answer was "no", Cambodia would proceed on its own.

Critics of the tribunal say it 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.

During the Khmer Rouge "killing fields" regime, 1.7 million people died through execution, torture, starvation and hard labour.

Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot died in 1998.

See also:

16 Nov 01 | Asia-Pacific
Khmer Rouge leaders to stay in jail
10 Aug 01 | Asia-Pacific
King signs Khmer Rouge trial law
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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