UNITED NATIONS (AP) _ An international tribunal, and not a Cambodian court, should handle the prosecution of the leaders of the Khmer Rouge, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Wednesday.
But a Cambodian war crimes tribunal would not have to be modeled on existing ones, and other options could be explored, Annan said in an apparent attempt to win the approval for a U.N. court from Cambodia’s leader, Hun Sen.
Hun Sen has already told Annan that he opposes an international tribunal out of fear that such a proceeding could anger the thousands of former Khmer Rouge rank-and-file who have made peace with the government.
But in a letter to the Security Council and the General Assembly, Annan backed conclusions by a U.N. panel that Cambodia’s judiciary was unlikely to meet ``minimal international standards of justice, even with external assistance.″
His recommendation follows warnings from U.N. experts and human rights groups who say the Cambodian court system is underfunded, unprofessional and susceptible to political pressure.
The experts have recommended an international tribunal for Cambodia similar to those being held to prosecute suspects accused of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.
Foreign Minister Hor Nam Hong told Annan in New York on Friday that Cambodia prefers to hold its own trials with international assistance. The government plans to try Khmer Rouge army chief Ta Mok before a Cambodian court under Cambodian law, but would accept foreign help.
Annan acknowledged the need for Cambodia’s support in prosecuting the leaders of the Khmer Rouge, whose brutal regime from 1975-79 claimed as many as 2 million lives.
``The success of any international tribunal of whatever character ... presupposes the full cooperation of the government of Cambodia and its readiness to apprehend Khmer Rouge leaders,″ his letter stated.