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US to donate $5 million to tribunal

I think i’m confident that the way is open for us to continue to contribute.

THE United States plans to donate US$5 million to the Khmer Rouge tribunal in 2010, US Ambassador at Large for War Crimes Stephen Rapp announced Wednesday, praising the court’s progress in investigating the regime’s senior leaders and addressing the issue of corruption.

Rapp said the US was anxious to make up for its initially tepid financial support of the tribunal, adding that “credible steps” taken by the UN and the Cambodian government to combat corruption had reinforced American support for the court.

“This decision to provide further funding to the court reflects our commitment to see this process through to its conclusion and help Cambodia build a society based on the rule of law,” Rapp said.

The funds, Rapp said, will be limited to the UN side of the hybrid court, rather than the national side, and were contingent upon a judgment by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that allegations of corruption were being dealt with effectively. The ambassador met this week with Uth Chhorn, the National Audit Authority chief who has been tasked with investigating complaints from court employees, and cited his appointment last year as a positive step on this front.

Though Rapp declined to discuss the specifics of future contributions to the tribunal, he said the US anticipated providing support over the next several years, provided that the court continues to make progress against corruption and mismanagement.

“If there were steps back in those areas, it would be difficult to proceed with funding, but having seen the steps taken.... I think I’m confident that the way is open for us to continue to contribute,” he said.

The announcement came after Rapp spent Tuesday at the tribunal, meeting with senior national and international staff members.

“We are very pleased with the announcement of $5 million, which is a significant contribution to help the court fulfill its mandate,” UN court spokesman Lars Olsen said. “We hope that other countries will follow the example of the US.”

Though observers have raised questions in recent months about political interference at the court, Rapp said he was unconcerned by remarks from Prime Minister Hun Sen and other officials who have publicly expressed their opposition to prosecutions beyond the court’s second case.

“There’s been comments about the court by political figures for a long period of time, indeed since the court was formed, and it’s not surprising that people who are interested in the court would make comments about it,” Rapp said.

Based on meetings with government officials and court staff, Rapp added that he did not believe that the court’s investigations had been disrupted by external forces.

In December, Hun Sen publicly denied interfering in the court’s work, though he warned that further prosecutions, pending in the tribunal’s third and fourth cases, could plunge the country into civil war.

The premier has also critcised the court’s attempt to summon as witnesses six senior government officials, including National Assembly president Heng Samrin and Senate president Chea Sim, who have apparently ignored these requests. With none of the officials having appeared before the court’s co-investigating judges as of January, Judge Marcel Lemonde concluded that it would not be feasible to pursue their testimony any further.

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