A top UN official has issued an urgent appeal to international donors and the Cambodian government to commit sustainable funding to the Khmer Rouge tribunal.
UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson said on Thursday that donors had an obligation to Cambodians to hold Khmer Rouge leaders to account and ensure the court does not fail.
“We all agree that there can be no impunity for crimes which tear at the very fabric of our common humanity. But we have to do more than agree – and more than speak out,” he said at a New York pledging conference for the court.
“Words do not pay the bills. If we do not pay the bills, we will fail to live up to our noble declarations. We will let down the millions of Cambodians who watched their relatives die, who survived atrocities, and who still live with a burning desire to see justice done.”
Eliasson said the court’s budget for next year reflected a “streamlined and scaled-back approach” to meet the financial constraints of donors.
Noting a stop-work strike by unpaid national staff in September, he called on Cambodia and donors to address the “chronic and increasingly disruptive financial crisis” the court is facing.
Last month, the government contributed an additional $1.8 million to cover staff costs on the national side of the court through the end of 2013.
“This additional financial support should not be a one-time occurrence. It should be sustained into the next year of the court’s operation and beyond,” Eliasson said.
Last week the Open Society Justice Initiative – a New York-based court monitor – called on donors to stop “dribbling out funding” to the court if they are willing to fund it through the second trial of Case 002.
Closing statements in the first trial – Case 002/01 – wrapped up on October 31.
The court has repeatedly said that despite funding woes, the second trial, which will hear charges relating to genocide, S-21 and work cooperatives, is not optional, given an order from the Supreme Court chamber to start evidentiary hearings as soon as possible.