Sri Lankan Judge in Cambodia's War Crimes Tribunal
Saturday, 20 May 2006
"This is actually a new dimension in the judicial endeavours that I have been engaged in," Jayasinghe, 62, a Sri Lankan supreme court justice, said to IPS in a telephone interview from his home in a
The confirmation of his name by Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni, this week, along with the list of other international and Cambodian judges, marked another milestone in the long and tortuous journey to establish this war crimes tribunal.
Jayasinghe, in fact, is the only jurist from a developing country nominated by the United Nations in its list of 13 international judges and prosecutors to play a role in the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), as this special tribunal is officially called.
The others are from
Both local and international human rights groups have fired broadsides at
Ney Thol, who is an army general and president of
Hun Sen's reaction to such criticism has been predictable. In a speech delivered recently to a gathering of law students, he attacked those who questioned
The Prime Minister "likened his critics to perverted sex-crazed animals, among other things", states the Hong Kong-based Asian Human Rights Commission, a regional rights lobby.
"This tribunal is very important for the Cambodian people who suffered so much during the Khmer Rouge period," Ny Chakrya, a ranking member of the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association, a Phnom Penh-based non-governmental group, told IPS. "They want to see a fair and transparent tribunal."
And Ny Chakrya is hoping that such will be the case when the next and the most important step of this tribunal, the work of the investigating judges begins.
The current developments come after a 10-year-long bitter debate between the UN and Hun Sen's regime about the setting up of this tribunal, which is a unique body unlike the special tribunals established to try the accused for the crimes against humanity committed in
The Cambodian tribunal will have a mix of international and local judges, with the latter in the majority, unlike the tribunals for
This was crimes court, being set up in a complex that has over 100 offices on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, will have three chambers: the pre-trial chamber, the trial chamber and the supreme court chamber.
In addition, there will be a team of investigating judges and prosecutors.
"We are expecting the judges to come to
Thereafter, the investigating judges begin work to examine the evidence for the cases ahead, she added. "We are hoping that the trials will begin in early 2007."
And while the trial will help Cambodian victims of Khmer Rouge brutality to finally get justice, it is also expected to revive political history embarrassing to the UN, the
Some of them helped the rise to power of Pol Pot, the leader of the Khmer Rouge, while others propped him up after his regime was driven out of power by the Vietnamese army.
During the reign of terror by the Maoist Khmer Rouge from 1975-79, close to 1.7 million people were executed or died of forced labour and famines in
Pol Pot died in 1998 but other leaders involved in acts of genocide have survived.
They include Ta Mok, the one-legged military chief who is known as 'The Butcher', and Kaing Khek Lev, or 'Duch', who headed the grisly Toul Sleng interrogation centre in Phnom Penh, where 14,000 people accused of being "enemies of the state" died and only 12 inmates survived. Both men are in jail after being accused by a military court, of war crimes and genocide.
Others like Nuon Chea, Pol Pot's deputy, known as "Brother Number Two", Khieu Samphan, former head of state during the Khmer Rouge years, and Leng Sary, the former Foreign Minister, are enjoying a free life following an amnesty from Hun Sen.