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Tribunal Begins Long-Awaited Rules Discussion

Khmer Rouge tribunal judges and prosecutors began a series of plenary meetings Thursday to discuss controversial internal rules that have hobbled effective trials to date.

"This tribunal, whether or not it can proceed, depends on this meeting now," tribunal spokesman Reach Sambath said. "This is the trial we anticipate and that will occur in the immediate future."

Judges and prosecutors, collectively called jurists, must find common ground on 113 articles of rules. A meeting in March fell short of full agreement on the rules between Cambodian and UN-appointed jurists. The March meetings were followed by weeks of deadlock, as the Cambodian Bar Association refused to lower fee requirements for foreign lawyers and the international jurists canceled an April plenary session.

Thursday's resumption of meetings was a mark of reconciliation, after the bar association eventually lowered the fee requirements. The plenary meetings are expected to last two weeks.

A legal expert for the rights group Adhoc, Hisham Mousar, who monitors the tribunal, said obstacles remain before a tribunal can indict any former Khmer Rouge leaders, who are aging and in poor health.

"It does not comply with the Cambodian criminal side," he said. "So the Cambodian judges can interpret it in the future, and if it is the case, they can say that, 'Hey, when the internal rules are implemented, they should not be done that way, because they are wrong based on the Khmer criminal side's interpretation.'"

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy said difficulties remained over legal criminal procedures.

"We ask for a proper reviewing of the article," he said, "so the National Assembly will not implement the criminal legal procedure without responsibility, and it can be an obstacle in the formation of [the tribunal]. It is another big responsibility and the lawmakers have to understand that."