New momentum may be building for Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge trial
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New momentum may be building for Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge trial

Official says attempt will be made to indict five more top cadres

The long-stalled attempt to indict additional top former Khmer Rouge cadres for alleged war crimes could gain some traction when a new American investigating judge is added to a UN-backed court in Cambodia in September, an American UN official said this week.


A villager carries local noodles for workers breaking stones to earn daily money near a grave site of Phnom Trungbat where skulls and bones were unearthed in Dau Dantrey village, about 60 kilometers (40 miles) northwest of Siem Reap in Cambodia, Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2012. Crowds of people traveled to the rural village after the discovery of what could be a Khmer Rouge mass grave. Some came to search for the remains of relatives.

The Nuremberg-style trial, which has droned on since 2009, is currently prosecuting only five of the late Pol Pot’s senior leaders who abetted him in a murderous reign that caused the deaths of an estimated 1.7 million innocent Cambodians and resulted in the ruination of the country, from which it is still recovering 33 years later.

The five additional suspects who could be brought before the court are “former military commanders and former provincial chiefs, or leaders,” who were among Pol Pot’s 1975-79 Khmer Rouge regime, Ambassador David Scheffer, the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Expert on the U.N. Assistance to the Khmer Rouge Trials, said in an interview.

The five are all retired and currently being investigated for “war crimes and crimes against humanity,” Scheffer said in a brief interview during a Bangkok stopover. Scheffer, who is also a law professor and director of the Center for International Human Rights at Northwestern University, declined to name them “because they are not officially designated.”

Bringing them to trial at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia will be a challenge. The UN-backed court has faced problems trying to determine the guilt of four other elderly men and one woman for the deaths during Pol Pot’s back-to-the-jungle “killing fields” regime. In addition, the tribunal has run into interference from the Cambodian government, which is on record opposing any new investigations of Khmer Rouge suspects.

Nonetheless, “The personal jurisdiction of this court was not intended to be relegated to only [those] five individuals,” Scheffer told reporters during an earlier news conference Wednesday.

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