Unwieldy court further complicates Khmer Rouge trial

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PHNOM PENH -- The Cambodian judges were on one side and the foreign judges on the other this week in a dispute that captures a decade of difficulties in bringing to trial the last surviving leaders of the murderous Khmer Rouge.

If they cannot agree on procedural rules soon, analysts and officials at the tribunal say, some foreign judges could walk out, casting a further shadow over a process that some critics say is already so compromised as to be of doubtful value.

Seventeen Cambodians and 12 foreigners took office as judges and prosecutors last July, inaugurating a United Nations-sponsored process that mixes Cambodian law with international standards of justice.

It is an awkward formula made all the more questionable by the involvement of poorly trained Cambodian judges who were appointed by and are answerable to Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Pragmatists say that a flawed trial is better than none at all and that there is no choice but to proceed with the tribunal you've got rather than the tribunal you might wish to have.

Three decades have already passed since the Khmer Rouge ruled Cambodia, causing the deaths of 1.7 million people through killings, torture, starvation and overwork in a regime that lasted from 1975 to 1979.

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