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Cambodia, U.N. to Resume Talks on Tribunal

January 06, 2003|From Reuters

UNITED NATIONS — Cambodia and the United Nations are set to resume long-stalled talks today aimed at establishing a special court to try former Khmer Rouge leaders blamed for more than 1 million deaths during their 1975-79 reign.

The Khmer Rouge is accused of ruling through torture, execution, hard labor and starvation in Cambodia's "killing fields" as it aimed to establish a "purified" agrarian society.

Yet no Khmer Rouge leader has faced trial for crimes during that period.

The United Nations pulled out of the project in February after nearly five years of negotiations, saying the court as envisioned by Phnom Penh could not guarantee fair trials.

While U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan sought an international court, Cambodia insisted on a national tribunal with the participation of foreign judges and prosecutors.

But Annan agreed to try again after the U.N. General Assembly last month passed a resolution asking him to press on with fresh talks.

Human rights groups accuse the Cambodian government, peppered with former Khmer Rouge officials, of trying to water down U.N. proposals.

But key U.N. members, including France and the United States, argue that an end to U.N. participation would forever rule out any prospect of trying surviving Khmer Rouge leaders.

U.N. officials characterized today's talks as "an exploratory meeting to prepare for a resumption of negotiations."

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