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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Money last hurdle to KR trial

Money last hurdle to KR trial

The $57 million, three-year Khmer Rouge Tribunal must have a year's funding in the

bank and firm pledges for the balance before it can proceed, says UN Secretary General

Koffi Annan.

In a progress report to the UN (dated October 12, but released November 15), Annan

said the tribunal could start when the actual contributions for the first year had

been received.

So far, the Australian government had pledged to fund A$3 million (about US$2.2 million)

for the full three years; the French and Japanese governments had made firm pledges

of $1 million and $3 million for the first year of the activities of the tribunal,

Annan said.

The US Senate has ruled that US government funds cannot be used to support the tribunal

in the current fiscal year ending next October.

The Cambodian Government's tribunal advisory member Dr Helen Jarvis told a public

forum in Phnom Penh November 17: "The US Senate Appropriations Committee decision

was a bit depressing. I hope that won't put off any other countries from contributing.

Most countries were waiting for Cambodia to complete its legal obligations, which

was done on October 27. Now there should be another mission from the UN to finalise

the budget and then an appeal for funds can be launched. A $60 million target is

not a great deal when compared with what is being spent on other similar tribunals

around the world, but here is an awfully long way to go."

The Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee (CHRAC) and 21 other signatories signed

a petition sent to the UN requesting that the United States join other countries

in contributing to the United Nations Trust Fund established to finance the tribunal.

They said it would be a tremendous misfortune if the Khmer Rouge tribunal failed

now because of a lack of financial commitment on the part of donors.

Koffi Annan said that financial burden assumed by member states in recent years for

the operation of international criminal tribunals had been significant. Donors were

expecting budgetary restraint when planning for new internationally assisted criminal


On the other hand, an underfunded operating budget would lead to delays in the start-up

of the Extraordinary Chambers and affect their ability to function in accordance

with international with international standards of justice, fairness and due to process

of law, Annan said.

The trials were expected to start 18 months after the entry into force of the agreement

and would last from nine months to a year and a half in each case.

There will be two levels of courts for the Khmer Rouge tribunal: the Trial Chamber

and the Supreme Court Chamber. At the Trial Chamber, there will be five judges comprising

three Cambodian and two international judges. At the Supreme Court Chamber, there

will be seven judges-four Cambodian judges and three international judges.

Annan said there were strong reasons for paying the international judges, co-prosecutor,

and co-investigating judge at UN officials salary rates. "The General Assembly

has so far not taken a decision in this matter. I find it necessary to stress the

importance of this point to maintain the credibility of the Extraordinary Chambers

and to ensure their independence and impartiality.

Jarvis, commenting at the public forum in answer to a question about how much Cambodian

judges would be paid, said: "The agreement does not say they will be paid equally

[with the international judges] so there may be some debate on this. This is something

for the donors to consider: do they think the judges who sit on the same bench should

be paid the same or not? In the Sierra Leone, Rwanda and former Yugoslavia tribunals

they are paid the same. The Cambodian Government promised to pay national salaries

for national staff which is their legal obligation and anything above that would

be up to the donors."

The judges will try to reach unanimous agreement on any decision made. If they cannot

all agree, then a decision requires what is called a 'super-majority'. In the trial

chamber four out of the five judges must vote for a conviction and in the supreme

court chamber five of the seven judges must vote for an appeal decision. Every decision

must therefore have the support of both Cambodian and international judges.

A number of international judges will be nominated by the UN Secretary-General. The

Cambodian Supreme Council of the Magistracy will then select five international judges

from that list and appoint them to the court. The supreme Council of the Magistracy

will also be responsible for appointing the seven Cambodian judges from among people

qualified to be Cambodian judges.

Annan's report said the credibility of the trials would depend to a large extent

on the integrity, impartiality and professional qualifications of judges, prosecutors

and other court personnel. Intensive training sessions were required, ranging from

questions of the law, to practices and techniques relating to complex criminal investigations,

prosecutions of crimes against humanity and general principles of international law.

The UNDP was currently training a group of 25-30 Cambodian judges, and a similar

course would be organised for defence counsel.

A World Bank report released on November 16, in a section on governance, said the

Cambodian judiciary was decimated under the Khmer Rouge. "The country's judges

either fled the country or were killed. From a legal profession of some 400-600 prior

to 1975, some 10 remained in the country five years later. The 1980s saw an effort

to rebuild the judicial system, drawing on teachers and others to fill the posts

of judges and prosecutors.

"But it remains largely devoid of legal talent. Only one in six of Cambodia's

117 judges has a law degree, and only one of the nine Supreme Court judges. Only

10 percent of public prosecutors has a law degree. Thus the judiciary inherited by

democratic Cambodia is ill-equipped to do its job, conditioned to being subservient

to the executive branch, poorly paid and allegedly corrupt."



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