Funding Crisis Threatens to Shutter Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge Court
NEW YORK—The international community must ease the financial strain on the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia or risk impunity for atrocities committed under the Khmer Rouge, the Open Society Justice Initiative said today.
“The Government of Cambodia, the UN, and donor countries all hold a responsibility to ensure that the court is able to finish its work,” said James A. Goldston, executive director of the Open Society Justice Initiative. “Prematurely closing the court before ongoing cases reach their judicial conclusion would undermine the cause of justice and betray the hopes of the Cambodian people.”
The court is currently crippled by a strike that began this week after the Government of Cambodia had failed to pay the court’s Cambodian staff for several months. The court cannot function without its Cambodian translators, interpreters, judges, and prosecution staff, disrupting efforts to complete the trial of what is known as Case 002 and the ongoing investigations into Case 003/004.
The Cambodian side of the court lacks nearly $3 million in funding. A substantial decrease in funding from Japan, a key donor, has put additional pressure on the court.
“It is time for stakeholders to step up and honor their commitment to the success of the court,” said Goldston. “The funding required at this point is modest, given the substantial investment of all parties over the past decade. A solution must be found.”
This week the UN expressed its grave concern for the situation. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon publicly stated in The Hague last week that, “The very survival of the court is now in question.”
There has been little public information in the last weeks from the UN, the donors, or the Cambodian government about the funding shortfalls. None of the stakeholders have publicly addressed a plan for dealing with problem.
The crisis is arising as the court nears the completion of Case 002, the trial of Khieu Samphan, who served as Khmer Rouge foreign minister and head of state, and Nuon Chea, the deputy secretary of the party, known as “brother number two” to the regime’s leader Pol Pot, who died in 1998.
The court’s co-investigating judges are also continuing to examine two further cases, known as Case 003 and 004, involving other senior Khmer Rouge figures, despite continued opposition from the government of Prime Minister Hun Sen.
The tribunal has successfully completed one case, handing out a life prison sentence in February 2012 to the former head of the Tuol Sleng torture center.
The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia was established in 2004 by a joint agreement between the United Nations and the government of Cambodia, and uses a mix of international and local judges and staff. It began proceedings in 2007.
The Open Society Justice Initiative has been monitoring the work of the tribunal since 2007, as part of its work to ensure accountability for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.