With three months’ worth of national side salaries still unpaid, about 100 Cambodian staffers temporarily left their posts at the Khmer Rouge tribunal yesterday, leaving the court to cope with almost-certain delays in its work just as the current case enters its crucial final stage.
According to court spokesman Neth Pheaktra, without such essential staff as translators and administrators, the court “take[s] the high risk” of delaying the issuance of closing briefs due later this month, and closing arguments currently scheduled for mid-October.
Civil party lead co-lawyer Elisabeth Simonneau-Fort said yesterday that the strike would definitely slow down civil party lawyers’ work due to the lack of translators, but was still “absolutely justified”.
“We hope we will be able to file [closing briefs] in due time, but we cannot be sure of this at the moment,” she said in an email.
Nonetheless, she added, “Not being paid for three months is unacceptable.”
Prosecutor Bill Smith said that the impact on his office would depend on the strike’s duration, but noted in an email that the law “requires joint participation, and without [that it] cannot achieve its goals”.
“For our office, in the short term, the impact will be manageable, but if it continues for more than a few weeks, the impact may have a significant effect,” he said.
Khieu Samphan defender Arthur Vercken said yesterday that pending requests about – among other things – the use of some 1,400 newly admitted witness statements were likely to remain unanswered until the strike ends, making it impossible for his team to properly draft a closing submission.
“We are pleading in these requests on very serious grounds, and the bulldozer is still moving, and if they don’t say anything before the 19th of September, then it’s a big problem,” Vercken said. “How can we write a closing brief if we don’t know the scope of the trial?”