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Tribunal Officials Consider New Head of Victims Unit

Khmer Rouge tribunal officials are prepared to appoint a new head of the court's victims unit as judges move toward a second trial of regime leaders, two court monitors said Tuesday.

That appointment is expected to go to Rong Chhorng, who is currently the acting head of the unit, officially known as the Victims Support Section, and will coincide with the appointment of the head of civil party attorneys and the head of outreach for the victims unit, according to the monitors.

The victims unit is a key function of the tribunal, which was designed to bring some measure of reconciliation to the country following the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge.

The section has seen two directors resign and has been criticized for slow movement on key issues for Cambodians who file complaints or testimony at the UN-backed court.

Meanwhile, thousands of victims have filed with the tribunal as it prepares for Case 002, to try leaders Nuon Chea, Khieu Samphan, Ieng Sary and Ieng Thirith for atrocity crimes, including genocide.

Im Sophea, former co-director of the Center for Justice and Reconciliation, is expected to be appointed as outreach coordinator, and Pich Ang, a lawyer for civil parties at the victims unit, is expected to be appointed head of the civil party attorneys, according to Hang Chhaya, director of the Khmer Institute for Democracy.

“But we urge that the [chief of the Victims Support Section] must be properly selected through the announcement or through another way that can fit everyone because this a crucial issue,” he said.

Tribunal officials would not immediately confirm the appointments, but a second tribunal monitor confirmed the package on the condition of anonymity.

Rong Chhorng, who occupies a position at the Council of Ministers, is also the chief of personnel inside the tribunal. He has been acting head of the victims unit since July.

Rights groups have complained the victims unit has been slow to respond to the needs of tribunal complainants, in part because its acting director is wearing too many hats.

“This is unavoidable,” said Latt Ky, a tribunal monitor for the rights group Adhoc. “If he has many jobs, how can he be thinking efficiently?”

Last month, the Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee said the tribunal was acting too slowly in appointing a new, permanent head of the victims unit, a position that was vacated when its former director retired in June.

“Only a full-time qualified senior official who is experienced with victims rights can deal adequately with the thousands of victims seeking participation in the second case,” the group said in a statement.

Tribunal spokesman Reach Sambath said the section would not have efficiency problems were Rong Chhorng to be appointed as its permanent head.