UN names new adviser for Cambodia Khmer Rouge trials

A student reads court documents displaying portraits of Khmer Rouge leaders Ieng Sary, from right, Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea during a UN-backed war crime tribunal in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on 16 January, 2012 Three Khmer Rouge leaders (photos from left) Nuon Chea, Khieu Samphan and Ieng Sary are on trial

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The United Nations has named a new special expert to advise on assistance to the Khmer Rouge trials in Cambodia.

David Scheffer, the former US ambassador-at-large for war crime issues, is ''very well qualified to provide expert advice'', the UN said in a statement released on Wednesday.

He replaces Clint Williamson, whose term expired on 30 September 2011.

The UN-backed genocide court is seeking justice for almost two million deaths under the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s.

Mr Scheffer was involved in the establishment of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, said the UN statement.

He was also experienced in setting up the International Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, the International Criminal Court and the Special Court for Sierra Leone.

In November 2011, three top Khmer Rouge leaders - Nuon Chea, Khieu Samphan and Ieng Sary - went on trial for crimes committed during the regime's rule.

Who were the Khmer Rouge?

  • Maoist regime that ruled Cambodia from 1975-1979
  • Led by Saloth Sar, better known as Pol Pot
  • Abolished religion, schools and currency in effort to create agrarian utopia
  • Up to two million people thought to have died of starvation, overwork or by execution
  • Defeated in Vietnamese invasion in 1979
  • Pol Pot fled and remained free until 1997 - he died a year later

Another leader, Ieng Thirith, was found incapable of standing trial because of ill health.

Former Khmer Rouge prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Comrade Duch, was convicted of crimes against humanity in 2010 in the tribunal's first case.

Last week, a Swiss judge publicly accused his Cambodian counterpart of stopping him from revealing key information about two other possible prosecutions.

It is the latest row between judicial officials at the UN-backed court.

The Swiss judge replaced a German judge who resigned unexpectedly in October 2011, citing political opposition to further prosecutions.

The trial of Nuon Chea, Khieu Samphan and Ieng Sary continued this week.

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