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Cambodia: Pillay welcomes start of second Khmer Rouge trial, calls for vigilance to ensure victims’ rights respected

GENEVA – (21 November 2011) – UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Chief Navi Pillay on Monday welcomed the opening of a landmark trial of three top Khmer Rouge leaders in the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), on charges including genocide, crimes against humanity and torture, but stressed the need for vigilance to ensure the rights of victims in cases before the tribunal are respected.

As the second case to be brought to trial by the ECCC gets under way in Phnom Penh, the tribunal will hear opening statements from the prosecution and defence in the trial of three alleged top leaders of the Khmer Rouge regime – Nuon Chea, Ieng Sary and Khieu Samphan.

“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. “The survivors’ testimony will undoubtedly help a new generation of Cambodians to understand their history and add impetus to the international community's efforts to prevent future mass crimes.”
It is estimated that approximately 1.7 million people lost their lives between 17 Aril 1975 and 6 January 1979 in Cambodia – the period of Democratic Kampuchea during which Pol Pot’s murderous Khmer Rouge regime was in power.
Despite the progress marked by the start of this second trial, the High Commissioner noted the tribunal continues to face challenges particularly with regard to the need to safeguard the integrity of its proceedings. In an important 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,” the High Commissioner said. “Allegations of interference mar the credibility of any Court in the eyes of the public.”

The High Commissioner stressed that victims have a right to obtain remedies for gross violations of international human rights law and serious violations of international humanitarian law, the most fundamental of these being the right to a fair and credible justice process.

Learn more about the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/AboutUs/Pages/HighCommissioner.aspx

UN Human Rights, country page – Cambodia: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/AsiaRegion/Pages/KHIndex.aspx

For more information or media requests, please contact spokesperson Rupert Colville (+41 22 917 9767 / rcolville@ohchr.org) or press officer Xabier Celaya (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org).

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