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First Effort to Try Cambodia's Khme

Subject: First Effort to Try Cambodia's Khmer Rouge Begins 


               First Effort to Try Cambodia's
               Khmer Rouge Begins


               PHNOM PENH, Nov 14 (Reuters) - The first member of a special
U.N. team
               arrived in Cambodia on Saturday to study the possibility of
bringing to trial
               Khmer Rouge leaders held responsible for the deaths of an
estimated 1.7 million

               The arrival of Sir Ninian Stephen, a judge and former
governor-general of
               Australia, marked the launch of the first effort by the
international community to
               bring to justice those responsible for the 1975-79 Khmer
Rouge "killing fields"
               reign of terror. 

               Stephen, who until last year was a member of the Hague-based
international war
               crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, declined to
discuss his mission or his
               agenda in Cambodia with reporters. 

               He will be joined by two other international jurists,
Rajsoomer Lallah, a judge
               from Mauritius, and Stephen Ratner, an international law
professor from the
               United States, and his trip will last seven or eight days,
he said. 

               The panel was appointed by U.N. secretary general Kofi Annan
following a
               request from the Cambodian government in June last year for
help in setting up a
               tribunal for Khmer Rouge leaders. 

               Stephen and his colleagues are expected to meet a range of
people including
               government leaders in their efforts to assess the evidence
for a possible tribunal. 

               Annan said earlier this year the team would also assess "the
feasibility of bringing
               Khmer Rouge leaders to justice, their apprehension,
detention and extradition or
               surrender to the criminal jurisdiction established." 

               Almost 20 years after the radical communists were forced
from power, remnants
               of the Khmer Rouge are still holding out in remote hills on
the border with

               Khmer Rouge chief Pol Pot died in a rebel village on April
15 but most of his
               top comrades are still alive, either at large on the Thai
border or living inside
               Cambodia after defecting to the government. 

               "Nothing has been done so far on the tremendous crimes
committed between
               1975-1979," Annan's special representative for human rights
in Cambodia,
               Thomas Hammarberg, told reporters at the United Nations in
New York earlier
               this month. 

               "No one has been arrested for these crimes, there hasn't
even been an apology,
               even by those who have recently defected to the government,"
he said. 

               King Norodom Sihanouk and the government back the proposed
               though some analysts question how many people the
government, which includes
               many former members of the Khmer Rouge, wants to see brought
before a

               The government has said it wants to see Khmer Rouge military
chief Ta Mok
               and two of Pol Pot's top henchmen, Khieu Samphan and Nuon
Chea, brought
               to justice. Khmer Rouge researchers say at least two former
top Khmer Rouge
               officials who have defected to the government also have
cases to answer,
               including their one-time foreign minister, Ieng Sary. 

               Hammarberg has declined to say who should be brought to
justice. He said one
               of the team's tasks would be too see how far any tribunal
should "cast the net." 

               The United States backs the proposal to try to bring Khmer
Rouge leaders to
               justice, but the group's former main backer China, has
expressed reservations. 

               Stephen and his colleagues are expected to deliver a
recommendation to Annan
               and the Cambodian government by January. 

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