Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Opening statements are scheduled this week from the prosecution and defence in the trial of former foreign minister Ieng Sary, former so-called Brother Number Two Nuon Chea, and former head of State Khieu Samphan on charges including genocide, crimes against humanity and torture. This is the second case to be brought to trial by the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), a mixed court set up under a 2003 agreement signed by the UN and the Government to try those deemed most responsible for crimes committed between 1975 and 1979 during which nearly two million people are thought to have died.
“This is another historic day for the people of Cambodia, many of whom have waited a long time to see the start of this trial, and who can at last begin to hear evidence of the atrocities committed all across the country over 30 years ago,” said United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay. She also noted that despite the progress made so far by the tribunal, it continues to face challenges, particularly regarding the need to safeguard the integrity of its proceedings.
In a series of recent decisions, the minority judges of the pre-trial chamber have found “serious deficiencies” in the application of international standards in the cases still before the court’s investigating judges.
“It is essential that these concerns are squarely addressed as the court moves forward,” said the High Commissioner, adding that allegations of interference “mar the credibility of any court in the eyes of the public.”
Last week the ECCC’s trial chamber ruled that Ieng Sary’s wife, 79-year-old Ieng Thirith, the former Social Affairs Minister for the Democratic Kampuchea who was on trial for genocide and other crimes against humanity along with the other three men, is unfit to stand trial and ordered her unconditional release.
(Adapted from a UN Press Release)