Phnom Penh stalls nominations of the judges

10 April 2006 by Anne-Laure Porée

The outcome of Slobodan Milosevic trial may recur in Cambodia, where the government is delaying setting up the extraordinary chambers to try ex- Khmer Rouge leaders, adopting a strategy that increases the likelihood of these leaders dying before they ever come to trial. The latest holdup - the nomination of judges. On March 7, the UN Secretary-General gave Phnom Penh a list of international judges. Since then, the Supreme Council of Magistracy, presided by King Norodom Sihanouk, has been putting off announcing their nomination and the nomination of the Cambodian judges. Helen Jarvis, head of public affairs at the special court for Cambodia, is invariably insisting that these announcements, which have been promised since the beginning of 2006, will be made "soon." According to her, "It's a matter of weeks."

"The nomination [of the judges] is a sign of political will," insists Kek Galabru, president of the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights. "But there is no political will in this case. Perhaps the government prefers to wait until the Khmer Rouge leaders all die off, since the dead can no longer talk. This attitude confirms the complexity of the Cambodian people." According to another political analyst, "I really don't see any headway being made. This nomination is the most important step, not the construction of a Spirit House near the court that would have us believe that progress is being made. Many think that now that the administration is in place, the government can no longer back out. Personally, I think that there are ways to stall the process, such as using a domestic political crisis similar to the one in 2003. The Khmer Rouge trials definitely came to a standstill then."

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