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Sunday, May 22, 2011

Khmer Rouge court 'damaged' by new case row

PHNOM PENH - CAMBODIA'S UN-backed war crimes tribunal has come under fire from observers and Khmer Rouge victims as it weighs a controversial new case that is strongly opposed by the government.

The court's third case - which targets two unnamed individuals - has proved so contentious that Cambodian and international prosecutors openly argued about whether to pursue it this month.

'There is definitely already damage to the court because of the controversy,' said tribunal monitor Clair Duffy from the rights group Open Society Justice Initiative.

So far only one member of the murderous 1975-79 regime, former prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Duch, has been successfully prosecuted. He was sentenced last July to 30 years in jail for war crimes and crimes against humanity. The case is now under appeal. A second trial involving the regime's four most senior surviving leaders is due to start next month.

But the government want the court's activities to end there, arguing that going after more suspects further down the chain of command could plunge the country back into civil war. Prime Minister Hun Sen - himself a mid-level cadre before turning against the movement - last year said the third case was 'not allowed'.

Little information has been made public about case three, but the suspects are believed to be former Khmer Rouge navy and air force commanders. A possible fourth case, thought to involve three mid-level cadres, is still under investigation but is also facing political pressure. -- AFP

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