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KR court cash crisis partially eased by New Zealand

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New Zealand Prime Minister John Key at the Khmer Rouge tribunal, Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2012 where he announced a pledge of NZ$200,000 (about US$162,655) to the cash-strapped court. Photograph: Stuart White/Phnom Penh Post

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key at the Khmer Rouge tribunal, Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2012 where he announced a pledge of NZ$200,000 (about US$162,655) to the cash-strapped court. Photograph: Stuart White/Phnom Penh Post

On the heels of his visit to the East Asian Summit, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key took a whirlwind tour of the Khmer Rouge tribunal yesterday, meeting officials and announcing a pledge of NZ$200,000 (about US$162,000) in the process.

In his brief remarks to the press, Key stressed the importance of “the process” of the court, and added that New Zealanders should have an interest in seeing justice done on behalf of the ultra-Maoist regime’s 1.6 million victims, but said it was not for him to “offer a legal opinion” on the stalled Case 003, a defendant in which is allegedly responsible for the capture and subsequent murder of New Zealander Kerry Hamill.

“Our view is that if there is a genuine trial, it should take place in Case 003, and we would be supportive of that process, and he should be held accountable, but we understand the issues that take place,” Key said.

The prime minister also declined to say whether future New Zealand donations would be tied to signs of progress in the government-opposed case, saying instead that the country would continue to focus on the more pressing financial problems of Case 002.

Clair Duffy, a tribunal monitor with the Open Society Justice Initiative, said yesterday that it was “absolutely appropriate for donors to push for genuine and credible investigations” into cases 003 and 004.

“I think they should be making their voices heard to the UN and in their diplomatic dealings with the government – that they expect to see an absence of political interference in the court,” she said.

Some have pointed to new investigating judge Mark Harmon as the best hope for steps forward in the blocked cases, but information about his work has not been made public and Duffy said that she too, had heard “nothing whatsoever” about what progress he had made thus far.

The donation comes at a time when the court, as Key acknowledged, “could conceptually run out of money”, but the $162,000 injection would fuel the court for less than one day, given that its daily operating costs – based on the court’s yearly budget-run north of $204,000.

Court spokeswoman Yuko Maeda said that the international side of the court would likely stay afloat through the year’s end, and that “several donors have committed to bring forward their 2013 pledges”, a tactic that Duffy says may land the court in the same position a year from now.

To contact the reporter on this story: Stuart White at stuart.white@phnompenhpost.com

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