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HRW Accuses Cambodian Govt of Interfering in Khmer Rouge Tribunal

A New York-based rights group is calling on the Cambodian government to stop interfering with preparations for a U.N.-backed trial of former Khmer Rouge leaders accused of genocide.

Human Rights Watch today (Wednesday) accused Prime Minister Hun Sen's government of controlling the Cambodian judiciary. It blamed the government for meddling in negotiations between Cambodian and United Nations officials regarding the rules of the tribunal.

The two sides failed last week to reach an agreement on the 110 rules that will govern the proceedings.

Brad Adams, the group's Asia director, expressed concern that the aging Khmer Rouge leaders can not be prosecuted until the rules are passed. He said political interference has brought the process to a "screeching" halt.

A government spokesman (Khieu Kanharith) dismissed the allegations, saying the process had stalled because of complicated technical issues.

Cambodia and the U.N. agreed in 2003 to establish the trial after years of start and stop negotiations.

The tribunal aims to seek justice for crimes committed by the Khmer Rouge during their rule from 1975 to 1979.

The ultra-Maoist group's radical campaign to establish a classless agrarian society in Cambodia led to the deaths of nearly two million people from execution, overwork, disease and starvation.