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US Congressman Says More Trials Necessary at Tribunal

US Congressman Edward Royce
US Congressman Edward Royce

US Congressman Ed Royce says the completion of one trial at the Khmer Rouge tribunal is not enough to end Cambodia’s culture of impunity and that more trials should be undertaken by the UN-backed court.

In an e-mail interview with VOA Khmer, Royce, who represents parts of Orange County, California, that are home to many Cambodian-Americans, said he has sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton noting his concern for an ongoing culture of impunity.

“The Cambodian government’s apparent influence over the two remaining [tribunal] proceedings is also of great concern,” he said. “The ramifications of this trial spread far beyond Cambodia. The world is watching, and despots the world over will be sent a message that their actions have consequences.”

Royce said the completion of the first trial, for Tuol Sleng prison chief Kaing Kek Iev, or Duch, “is a good first step towards justice….Holding him accountable for his horrific crimes is step one in the reconciliation process.”

However, he said, more cases need to be tried.

“A dismissal in Cases 003 and 004 would certainly satisfy Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has publicly demanded that no additional suspects be tried by the tribunal,” he said. “There are still too many whose crimes are on the level of Duch’s that are awaiting their day in court. It is imperative that they be held accountable for their crimes, as well.”

“While the completion of the first case is indeed helpful in the healing process, nothing can fully heal the horrors the Cambodian people suffered,” Royce said. “However, war crime trials do serve the purpose of establishing accountability and hopefully act as a deterrent.”

Royce urged the government to approve a new investigating judge for the UN-backed tribunal, following the resignation of a German judge last year.

“It is important that cases 003 and 004 move forward immediately,” he said.