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Prosecutor Pushes for Resumption of Khmer Rouge Trial

An overview of the U.N.-backed court, file photo.
An overview of the U.N.-backed court, file photo.
Khmer Rouge tribunal officials met Wednesday to discuss moving forward with a second phase in the case against two aging leaders, but prosecutors and lawyers were at odds over how to proceed.

The court’s international prosecutor, Nicholas Kourmjian, said he wants this phase of the trial to move forward as quickly as possible.

With the alleged crimes of the defendants taking place more than 30 years ago, and with the two defendants both aging, the impending trial should take place “as soon as possible,” Kournjian said. That could mean opening the trial by the end of February, serving to keep costs down, he said.

But a lawyer for former head of state Khieu Samphan, who is facing atrocity crimes charges alongside the regime’s chief ideologue, Nuon Chea, requested that next phase be delayed until after the verdict in the first phase of their trial is rendered, sometime next year.

The first phase of the trial, dealing with the forced evacuation of Phnom Penh in April 1975, concluded earlier this year, and a verdict is not expect until the second quarter of 2014. The scope of the second phase has not yet been determined. The trial was broken into two parts, in hopes of expediting the process.

More discussions on how to proceed with the second phase of Case 002 will continue on Thursday.

International judge Siliva Cartwright on Wednesday repeatedly asked the Office of Co-Prosecutors whether a fast timeline was feasible, given the challenges of setting up a new phase.

Long Panhavuth, a program officer for the Cambodia Justice Initiative, said the UN-backed court has so far been “unclear” on what will happen next.

“What the general public wants is a clear timeline for the next hearing,” he said.