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Cambodia and UN Review Financing Needs of Khmer Rouge Tribunal.

Ek Madra / Khmer Times Share:

PHNOM PENH, (Khmer Times) – Looking beyond Thursday’s convictions of two top Khmer Rouge leaders for crimes against humanity, Cambodia and the United Nations are reviewing financing needs for the war crimes tribunal to continue.
Deputy Prime Minister Sok An met Tuesday with Stephen Mathias, UN Assistant Secretary General for Legal Affairs.
The top level meeting came on the eve of Thursday’s convictions of Khieu Samphan, 82, former Khmer Rouge head of state, and Nuon Chea, 87, an official often called “Brother Number Two” for his proximity to Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge paramount leader. A second trial for the two men on new charges has started.
Two co-defendants were dropped from the case. Former Khmer Rouge foreign minister Ieng Sary died in March last year during the trial. His widow, Ieng Thirith, the Khmer Rouge social-affairs minister, was officially deemed senile in 2012. Recently, she was released from a hospital in Thailand. Pol Pot died of natural causes in 1998 in a hut in a Cambodian jungle village, near the Thai border.
Justice for the Khmer Rouge has been slow in coming. In 2003, after six years of torturous negotiations, a deal was inked between the U.N. and Cambodia for the creation of the tribunal, formally called the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC). 
Since the ECCC started work here in 2006, $217 million has been spent on the court.
Cambodia’s contributions in both cash and kind are about 10 percent of the court’s total budget, making Cambodia the second largest contributor after Japan. 
Mathias said that the “United Nations was disappointed” to learn that Cambodia’s government was not in the position to provide the $125,000  necessary to meet the funding gap for July for the national staff salaries, according a government official. The official said that the U.N.  appreciates that Cambodia’s government committed an additional $1 million to meet salaries for the first quarter this year. 
Cambodia’s view is that it cannot further increase this contribution without jeopardizing the country’s judicial reform program. Funds for the ECCC already exceed the national budget commitment to the country’s Supreme Court by 257 percent and to the Appeals Court by 300 percent. The Cambodian side of the ECCC needs $6.4 million to operate for the whole year of 2014.
Last month, Dr. Sok An, who also chairs the Royal Government Task Force for the Khmer Rouge Trials, asked the British government to make up the financial shortfall of $125,000 for the month of July for the national side of the court.
Despite the financing challenge, the Cambodian official and his U.N. counterpart said they were pleased to see the verdicts.
“We feel that it marks the good success of the court,” said Dr. Sok An. “We understand this as a common success of the Kingdom of Cambodia and the international community, particularly the United Nations as a whole.”
“We can say that this court is our common baby,” he continued. “So, this success is really a common success. But there are still challenges of financial issues ahead of us. Another challenge is the very old age of the two accused,  since their health status is not good.”
In turn, Mathias said of the Aug. 7 verdict: “It is a historic milestone, not only for the people of Cambodia, but also international criminal justice.”
An estimated 1.7 million Cambodians died under the Khmer Rouge regime due to forced labor, starvation, medical neglect and execution committed by the Khmer Rouge between April 1975 and January 1979.
Cambodia and United Nations are working to appoint Claude Fenz to succeed ECCC Judge Silvia Cartwright, who is leaving soon.
“We are hoping that the U.N. Secretary General is in a position to forward the nominee to you soon, so the reserved international judge chamber can be filled in good time and there won’t be a delay,” Mr. Mathias told Dr. Sok An.
In response, Dr. Sok An said: “We are working on a process of replacement of Judge Catrize, who will be leaving. We will get this done within four weeks of now.”
The Cambodian official also noted that France wants to build a memorial site for Khmer Rouge victims in front of the French Embassy in Phnom Penh.
“We are already working with the Ministry of Culture to set up a memorial site at Tuol Sleng genocide museum,” Dr. Sok An said.

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