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Tribunal Working Quickly on Next Trial, Spokesman Says

Court officers of the U.N.-backed war crimes tribunal are seen through windows during a hearing of former Khmer Rouge top leaders in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

The UN-backed Khmer Rouge tribunal has yet to set a date for a new round of atrocity crimes trials, but a spokesman for the court says it is working as fast as possible to resolve procedural issues.

The court is working on resolving these issues so that it can begin the second phase of a trial against aging leaders Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan, after it issues a verdict in the first phase of their trial, the spokesman, Neth Pheaktra, told “Hello VOA” Thursday.

“The Trial Chamber has set plans involving parties from now through the middle of 2014 to tackle all issues before the actual trial of the case,” he said.

Ideologue Nuon Chea and former head of state Khieu Samphan are facing charges of atrocity crimes, including genocide, for crimes committed by the regime under their leadership. Their trial, Case 002, was broken into two phases to expedite the process. A verdict in the first phase is expected early in 2014. The second phase is in a preparatory stage.

Latt Ky, a tribunal monitor for the rights group Adhoc, said the case should move forward quickly. Meanwhile, civil party complainants should be informed of the details. So far, they don’t know the scope of trial and do not have information about details now under discussion, he said.

“If we know about the crime sites, then it’s easy to prepare the submissions, and it’s easy for co-lawyers to select potential clients,” he said.

Donors to the court too need a clear plan from the tribunal, he said. Without it, they seem unwilling to pledge enough money for the court to complete its work, he said.

“Normally, a budget policy needs a time frame and clear indicators,” he said.

The tribunal has faced funding gaps and allegations of mismanagement in recent years, with some observers concerned that further delays will mean the defendants die before their trial is concluded.

Tribunal officials are now considering the scope of the trial, including charges, assessment of the fitness of the accused to stand trial, and other matters.