Tuesday, 16 September 2008

US pledges US$1.8 million for Cambodian tribunal

International Herald Tribune
The Associated Press
Published: September 16, 2008

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia: The United States will give US$1.8 million to Cambodia's genocide tribunal to aid its work in trying former Khmer Rouge leaders for their alleged crimes against humanity, a top U.S. official said Tuesday.

Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte said the U.S. government believes "the conditions are both appropriate and opportune to make this contribution."

The U.N.-assisted tribunal has detained five former Khmer Rouge leaders on charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes. The trial of the first suspect is planned for later this year.

"We want to help this tribunal succeed, and we think it definitely has a chance to succeed," Negroponte said at a press conference at the end of a three-day visit to Cambodia.

The money will be given to the tribunal's U.N. side, which is staffed by international personnel. The tribunal, which is seeking justice for atrocities committed in the 1970s under the Khmer Rouge's rule, is jointly run by Cambodian and U.N. officials under a pact both sides signed in 2003.

The radical policies of the ultra-communist Cambodian group, which ruled from 1975 to 1979, caused the death of some 1.9 million people from starvation, diseases, overwork and execution.

Negroponte also toured the S-21 prison, the largest Khmer Rouge torture center in Cambodia's capital, Phnom Penh, to see what he called "a reminder of the holocaust."

It is now known as Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, and holds exhibits of prisoner's mug shots, skulls, and other traces of the crimes committed during the Khmer Rouge's brutal rule.

"It's a very moving experience to see this museum, to see the reminiscence of the holocaust," Negroponte told The Associated Press after touring the museum early Tuesday morning.

He said the site is "a reminder of the holocaust that took place, and I think it's important to document it."

Up to 16,000 men, women and children were held at the prison before being taken out for execution before the Khmer Rouge's regime was ousted from power by a Vietnam-led invasion in 1979.

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