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Mum’s still the word for translators

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The Cambodian members of the Khmer Rouge tribunal’s Interpretation and Translation Unit continued their strike yesterday, demanding the salaries the court has not paid them or 240 other Cambodian court staff for the past three months, said court press officer Neth Pheaktra.

The 30 striking interpreters announced yesterday after a meeting among themselves that they would return to work if their December salaries were paid but would strike again if – by the end of March – they had not been offered renewed job contracts backdated to January 2013, when their old contracts expired, Pheaktra said.  

No other staff had joined the strike yet, he said, but noted that, “Working without pay has indeed demoralised each and every one of the national staff. Facing a serious financial crisis, some national staff of the [Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia] have decided to take leave without pay and look for other jobs.”

The non-payment has affected all national staff but the 17 Cambodians working in the Victim Support Section, which manages victims’ complaints and liaises with civil parties and is fully funded this year by $700,000 from Germany.

The remaining unpaid staff, he said, include not only the ECCC’s court management, the witness support, security and safety and other administrative sections but also the court’s lawyers and judges, up to Trial Chamber President Nil Nonn.

Many of these staff “now are facing economic difficulties for their day-to-day livelihoods such as bills for utilities, house rental fees, medical service, children’s school fees and still worse, work without contract.”

Already, the Interpretation and Translation Unit national staff’s strike had affected not only the proceedings on Monday but also the ongoing translation of documents, he added.

The ITU’s international staff had been paid and were not striking, he said, but noted that their “number is not sufficient.”

Donor funds pledged for 2013 had no timeline for disbursement, and the court was still waiting for $300,000 pledged by the EU for 2012, he said.

The EU delegation in Phnom Penh didn’t respond to questions Monday or yesterday.

Embassy of Japan counselor Takayoshi Kuromiya stated, “The Embassy of Japan is concerned at the news of the interpreters’ strike as it will seriously affect the proceedings.”

“It is important that the Royal Government of Cambodia and a wide range of countries extend financial support to the court,” he added.

According to the UN-Cambodia agreement that established the court in 2003, salaries of Cambodian personnel are to be paid by the government.

But government spokesman Ek Tha has maintained that the Cambodian government is unable to contribute more money for 2013 and has appealed to international donors.

As of yesterday afternoon, meanwhile, co-accused Ieng Sary remained in hospital.



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