UN rights chief warns of interference in Khmer Rouge trial

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UN human rights chief Navi Pillay welcomed a landmark trial of three top Khmer Rouge leaders in Cambodia on Monday, but warned against political interference.

"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," Pillay said in a statement.

However, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights noted that the tribunal "continues to face challenges particularly with regard to the need to safeguard the integrity of its proceedings".

"Allegations of interference mar the credibility of any court in the eyes of the public," she noted.

The case against the three is the court's second and most important after it sentenced former Khmer Rouge prison chief Duch to 30 years in jail last year for overseeing the deaths of 15,000 people.

The current Cambodian government counts many former Khmer Rouge figures within its ranks and the court has been mired in controversy over its handling of two possible new cases against five lower-ranking cadres that are strongly opposed by the government.

The government has denied meddling but Prime Minister Hun Sen -- himself a former cadre -- has made it clear he wants the court's work to end with case two, even saying last year that more trials were "not allowed".

Also last year, six senior members of the ruling party ignored summonses to appear before the tribunal.

© 2011 AFP

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