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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Guillotine aimed at KR trial funds

Guillotine aimed at KR trial funds

Guillotine aimed at KR trial funds

FRANCE and Japan are leading an attack by potential donor countries to slash the

Khmer Rouge Trials budget by 50 percent to $30 million, according to KR researcher

and political scientist Craig Etcheson.

He said the United States, Britain, Australia, Scandinavian countries and Holland

were also highly critical of the $60 million the UN Secretariat initially came up

with "and they too are pushing for a sharply reduced budget".

The French and Japanese embassies in Phnom Penh declined to comment. The KR Trials

Secretariat said there was no funding crisis developing.

Etcheson (who is US-based but does frequent specialised contract research in Cambodia)

said: "The only way to reduce the budget by 50 percent for the three-year proceedings

would be to drastically cut the number of UN personnel involved in the KRT, since

personnel costs comprise about half the Secretariat's original figure. That would

have significant implications for the conduct of the tribunal."

He said the heavy expenses of other international criminal courts were causing donor

fatigue "and it looks like the Cambodia tribunal is going to bear the consequences

of that fatigue".

Sean Visoth, executive secretary of the KRT Secretariat, said: "We are as anxious

as the other parties to see the budget reduced, but we have to bear in mind the need

to meet international standards of justice. We have not been told anything, but there

is not a crisis happening."

He declined to be specific about areas that could be trimmed, but Helen Jarvis, adviser

to the chairman, Sok An, has said recently that the interested states had suggested

a list of about 50 possible cost cuts.

The Post understands items such as lower-specification vehicles, cheaper Thai-made

bulletproof glass, and bulk-purchasing discounts for office furnishings and computer

equipment available through the UN are on the list.

The current Cambodian share is $15 million to be met from the national budget and

donors. So far only Australia has made a pledge, of $2.2 million.

The hypothetical scenario on which the proposed $60 million budget is based presumes

10 indictments, seven trials and five convictions. In this vein, a conviction would

cost $12 million.

An unsigned but authoritative paper circulating in Phnom Penh (the author wishes

to remain anonymous) argues that $60 million "should be seen as a bargain"

compared with the cost of other international criminal courts.

The budget for the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY)

is now $135 million a year; so far it has cost over $900 million for 10 years of

full operation. The cost per conviction so far is $34 million.

The budget for the Rwanda Tribunal is $177 million for 2004 alone, and has a total

cost estimated at $1.5 billion over 15 years. The cost per conviction so far is $50

million.

The Iraqi Tribunal that will try Saddam Hussein and his senior henchmen has a budget

of $75 million for two years.

The Sierra Leone Special Court has been pledged $71 million for three years.

The unsigned paper says: "After years of negotiations between the UN and Cambodian

Government, and after the international community has repeatedly insisted that an

agreement be reached, the choice at this point should be between all and nothing.

Doing nothing is not acceptable. Therefore the international community should make

a full financial contribution to support the court.

"The opportunity is open for a limited time. The alternative to buying in now

is to run a high risk of having a deeply flawed court that must be funded anyway,

and yet may not achieve justice in the end."

The Khmer Rouge Trial Task Force (KRTF) has announced that it is about to publish

a 20-page booklet on the proposed trials to assist public understanding and encourage

potential witnesses to come forward. A donor country, understood to be Australia,

is meeting the unstated cost.

The initial print run will be 15,000 in Khmer and 2,000 in English. The booklet title

was not stated.

The content has been written in layperson language. Contributors and consultants

included members of the secretariat, a number of NGOs and legal experts. The final

draft will be submitted to the KRTF chairman, Sok An.

Distribution throughout the country will be via two NGO networks, print media and

all radio stations.

"It is in the interest of the government to provide accurate information to

the public. The primary purpose of the Extraordinary Chambers is to bring justice

to the people of Cambodia. All Cambodians live with the burden of the nightmare of

the past. If our people do not understand the process, how can they benefit from

or participate in the Extraordinary Chambers? When the Office of Administration is

set up (after ratification and calls for funding) there will be a [communications]

media division that will regularly provide outreach to the people. The information

booklet is simply the first small step."

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