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09th-Nov-2014

Trial of war crimes : Cambodian example and ours

By Editorial Desk

Cambodia established a Khmer Rouge Trial Task Force to create a legal and judicial structure to try the leaders for war crimes and other crimes against humanity. But progress was slow. The government said that due to the poor economy and other financial commitments, it could only afford limited funding for the tribunal. Several countries, including Canada, India and Japan, came forward with extra funds. But by January 2006, the full balance of funding was not yet in place.
Nonetheless, the Task Force began its work and took possession of two buildings in the grounds of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) High Command headquarters in Kandal province just on the outskirts of Phnom Penh. In March 2006, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, nominated seven judges for a trial of the Khmer Rouge leaders.
In May 2006, Justice Minister Ang Vong Vathana announced that Cambodia's highest judicial body approved 30 Cambodian and United Nations judges to preside over the long-awaited  genocide tribunal for surviving Khmer Rouge leaders. The judges were sworn in early July 2006.
In June 2009 the international Co-Prosecutor Robert Petit resigned from his assignment due to "personal and familial reasons". In November of the same year, Andrew T. Cayley was appointed as new international Co-Prosecutor, and his Cambodian co-prosecutor is Ms. Chea Leang.
Under the agreement between Cambodia and the UN, the tribunal is to be composed of both local and international judges. Due to Cambodia's predominantly French legal heritage, investigations are performed by the Investigating Judges, who will conduct investigations and submit a closing order stating whether or not the case will proceed to trial.
Both the Pre-Trial Chamber and the Trial Chamber are composed of three Cambodian and two international judges, while a Supreme Court Chamber is made up of four Cambodian judges and three international judges.
All international judges have been appointed by the Supreme Council of the Magistracy of Cambodia from a list of nominees submitted by the Secretary-General of the United Nations. There are also Reserve judges who may be called upon to serve in the event of an emergency.
The Cambodian government tried war crimes and took every care to impress the world of fairness. They had judges chosen internationally with the help of United Nations. The government of Cambodia also appointed international co-prosecutor.
War crime is an international offence and it is essential to maintain international standards of such trials. Unfortunately, our wise men have been too anxious to please the government and misled it grossly. Once found guilty death must be awarded.
International community is unhappy for the reasons of ignoring the international requirements. If we could have waited for 40 years we could also have found time to ensure international cooperation in being fair about the trials.
Nobody could say that the trials were not clouded by smell of political vengeance. Besides, the trial proceedings inherently suffered from a contradiction in that the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu forgave the principal criminals such as Pakistan army. Again death sentences are given as a matter of course when such International Tribunals are not authorised by law to hand down death sentences.
It is only just and fair that international crimes, like crime against humanity should be tried according to international law; not be governed by domestic law.
Bangabandhu tried to be logical and wanted them to be tried by domestic courts using domestic laws. Under domestic law there would not have been any difficulty to award death sentences when appropriate.