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Experts Suggest Tribunal Complete an Exit Strategy

With little indication from the Khmer Rouge tribunal that it will try more leaders beyond its initial indictments, observers say the UN-backed court should consider designing its completion strategy.

Issues remain unresolved on how the court might wrap up, how convicted suspects should be handed back to the national judiciary—or untried suspects to local courts—and how the tribunal might begin legacy and capacity building.

“It would be feasible and appropriate for the court to begin to plan how it will wind up its activities when those cases are​ fully dealt with in the judicial process,” Heathery Ryun, a tribunal monitor for the Open Society Justice Initiative, wrote in an e-mail.

Any completion plan should take into account “the need to complete outstanding cases in accordance with international​ standards; the goals of the court to support rule-of-law development in Cambodia and a sense of meaningful justice for Cambodians; and residual issues which may arise after the court disbands, such as use of​ investigatory material, archives, and legal issues that may arise in cases following a final judgment.”

The tribunal has so far tried one suspect, the torture chief Duch, and it is preparing for the potential joint trial of four more senior leaders. But tribunal jurists have been at odds over whether to indict still more suspects.

Lat Ky, a court monitor for the rights group Adhoc, told VOA Khmer the court can begin considering what it can contribute to the national judiciary.

“It should be defined from today how long the tribunal should have to wind up and what should remain for the assistance for judicial reform in Cambodia,” he said.

He cited as an example the slow reconciliation process in Rwanda, which had war crimes courts that went on for years at great cost in time and money. Donors may learn from that, he said.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a key diplomat for one of the tribunal’s donor countries said this week that some donors will be looking for a completion strategy before they discuss more funding for the court.

“We do not want to see it dragging on forever,” the diplomat said.

A tribunal spokesman said the completion strategy is currently underway as a joint project between the Cambodian and UN-appointed sides of the hybrid court.