Canadian prosecutor quits Khmer Rouge trial

Wed Jun 24, 2009 7:53am EDT
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PHNOM PENH (Reuters) - The departing foreign co-prosecutor for Cambodia's Khmer Rouge tribunal expressed concern Wednesday about graft allegations and tight funding that is threatening to derail the trial of Pol Pot's top cadres.

Speaking to reporters a day after he quit for personal reasons, Canadian Robert Petit said the tribunal was in urgent need of funding to prosecute those responsible for 1.7 million deaths during the 1975-79 Khmer Rouge era.

"The court is still under-funded and under-resourced for the tasks that it is supposed to accomplish," Petit, whose last day is September 1, told reporters.

"Obviously, allegations such as the corruption and administration must be addressed and put to rest finally," said Petit, who has served on international genocide tribunals in Rwanda and Sierra Leone.

The joint U.N.-Cambodian tribunal has been fraught with problems since it started work three years ago and some payments to the court have been delayed due to allegations of graft.

Petit also urged politicians and senior officials not to meddle in the tribunal, and said attempts to interfere with the running of the court were "very disturbing."

The court admitted in January that a bid to go after more suspects was brushed aside by Petit's Cambodian co-prosecutor, who argued it would not be good for national reconciliation.

The government has denied meddling in the court, but rights activists have long suspected Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen does not want to dig too deep for fear it will unearth secrets about senior Khmer Rouge figures inside his administration.

Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Duch, is currently being tried for his role as the chief of the torture center S-21, where more than 14,000 prisoners died.

The other four who were indicted -- "Brother Number Two" Nuon Chea, the regime's ex-president, Khieu Samphan, and Ieng Sary, its foreign minister, and his wife -- have denied knowledge of any atrocities during Pol Pot's ultra-Maoist revolution.

(Reporting by Ek Madra; Editing by Martin Petty and Bill Tarrant)

<p>Canadian co-prosecutor Robert Petit of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Court of Cambodia (ECCC) speaks to journalists during a news conference in the outskirts of Phnom Penh June 24, 2009. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea</p>