UN names new adviser in Khmer Rouge trials

18 January 2012 363 views No Comment BY: BNO News

NEW YORK (BNO NEWS) -- United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday designated David Scheffer of the United States as Special Expert to advise on the UN Assistance to the Khmer Rouge Trials (UNAKRT).

In a statement, the UN said Scheffer will be providing expert advice on UNAKRT during the critical phase for the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts Cambodia (ECCC), which is set up under an agreement signed in 2003 by the UN and the Government.

The ECCC is tasked with trying those deemed most responsible for crimes committed under the Khmer Rouge regime, which ruled Cambodia from April 1975 to January 1979 and is thought to be responsible for the deaths of as many as two million people.

Scheffer, who the UN described as 'very well qualified,' is replacing Clint Williamson, whose term of office expired on September 30, 2011. His designation is for an initial period of six months.

The new Special Expert was involved in the establishment of the ECCC, the International Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), the International Criminal Court (ICC), and the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL). He served as the U.S. Ambassador at Large for War Crimes Issues from 1997 to 2001.

In late November, 80-year-old Khieu Samphan, former Cambodian head of State during the Khmer Rouge regime in the late 1970s, claimed that the genocide trial he is facing is based on guesses, generalizations and bias. He said he was merely a nominal head of State with no real powers.

Case 002, as the current trial is being referred to, is considered one of the most significant in international criminal justice due to the magnitude of the crimes and its complexity. The trial includes the April 17, 1975, mass evacuation of the capital Phnom Penh, the torture and executions at security prisons around the country and genocide against the Cham Muslims and the ethnic Vietnamese.

But local media in Cambodia have underlined that the abuse and violations suffered by many victims under the Khmer Rouge regime may never be heard in court.

Samphan is one of three co-defendants in Case 002. The two others are Nuon Chea, the former second-in-command of the Khmer Rouge, and Ieng Sary, the former foreign minister and deputy prime minister.

It is estimated that at least 1.7 million Cambodians died during the Khmer Rouge's reign. The regime came to an end in 1979 when a civil war erupted.

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