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Prosecutors Fear Increasing Delays at Tribunal

Former Khmer Rouge leaders Khieu Samphan, left, and Nuon Chea, right, look on during the funeral for Khieu Ponnary, the first wife of Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot, in 2003.
Prosecutors at the UN-backed Khmer Rouge tribunal on Monday reiterated calls for a speedy second phase in a trial against two former leaders of the regime.

Tribunal officials are determining procedures for the case against regime ideologue Nuon Chea and its head of state, Khieu Samphan. Both are accused of atrocity crimes, including genocide, in a case that was broken into separate parts to expedite the trial process.

Prosecutors say they worry that if the court takes too long in the second phase of the trial, more obstacles could delay it even further.

“We don’t want to be in the situation that come August or September, before the trial starts, we find out the judge is leaving, and then we have to start to find a new judge, and then we don’t start to try until 2015,” the court’s international prosecutor, Nicolas Koumjian, told a group of civil party applicants in Phnom Penh Monday.

The Trial Chamber of the court last week said it would not create new procedural codes for the next phase of the trial, which will cover crimes committed at cooperatives and security centers and crimes toward Muslims and ethnic Vietnamese.

Victims of the regime and critics of the court have said they are getting impatient with the process, waiting for a verdict in phase one while waiting for the court to begin with phase two of the trial.

“Waiting for them to announce the verdict has been too long,” said Song Chhor Voan, an assistant to the tribunal prosecutors. “It is better that the Trial Chamber starts a hearing at the same time it prepares the verdict. The prosecution wishes that the hearing would begin in February or March.”