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Local Courts Not Prepared for Tribunal Cases: Group

Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, (ECCC).

Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, (ECCC).

A US-based legal group says the Khmer Rouge tribunal should not transfer any high-level wars crimes cases to Cambodia's national courts when it leaves the country.

The UN-backed court is in the midst of preparing a so-called completion strategy, to determine what the tribunal might leave for the national judiciary.

The New York-based Open Society Justice Initiative said in a report Wednesday that high-level crimes must be properly adjudicated.

“In light of relentless Cambodian political interference, the best way to achieve this is through the existing hybrid tribunal,” OSJI's executive director, James Goldston, said. “The United Nations and international donors must ensure that any completion plan for the court guarantees fair trials and appeals in all remaining cases on its docket.”

The question of political interference centers around whether the court should pursue more indictments. Prime Minister Hun Sen has warned that further arrests could lead to instability, an opinion echoed by Cambodian tribunal judges.

In a Nov. 10 statement, the tribunal's outgoing defense administrator, Richard Rogers, said political interference had made his job difficult.

The institutions of justice and respect for law are still developing in Cambodia, he said, and “the threat of political interference...may undermine the independence of the court.”

Political interference had become a “fair trial concern,” he said.

Government spokesman Phay Siphan denied the courts were facing such interference. He also said the mandate of the court means it should not prosecute beyond the five suspects now in custody without a renegotiation.

Meanwhile, the tribunal continues to face funding woes, as donors wait for a completion strategy before deciding how much more they want to put into the court.