Senior United Nations and Cambodian government officials met in Phnom Penh yesterday to discuss the state of a court sinking under the pressure of funding shortages, strikes and fears of justice denied following the death of 87-year-old defendant Ieng Sary.
At the centre of the discussion were David Scheffer, the UN special expert on the Khmer Rouge tribunal, and Deputy Prime Minister Sok An.
Scheffer and a spokesman for the Council of Ministers were, however, tight-lipped about details of the meet. No ideas were floated on how the Cambodian government could fill a $7 million shortfall in the national side of this year’s budget. No strategy was announced for how the trial could proceed, in the words of a statement released yesterday, “as expeditiously as possible with fair, efficient, and properly funded trial proceedings of the two remaining defendants”.
By email, Scheffer said he was “busy with meetings”, and said only: “We had frank and constructive discussions, and we continue to work together to find solutions to ensure that the ECCC continue its important work.”
Ek Tha, a spokesman for the Council of Ministers’ Press & Quick Reaction Unit, pointed to the public statement, which said that the death of Sary on March 14, the budget problems and the advanced age of the two remaining defendants “compel immediate attention by all stakeholders”.
After Sary’s death, the Trial Chamber terminated proceedings against him, handing over his body to family members, who will cremate him today.
The statement also said that Sok An expressed his appreciation for the commitment of national side staffers who have gone without pay for three months, a situation that caused the court’s first strike earlier this month, when translators and interpreters refused to do their jobs. Though they returned to work on Monday, with promises of being paid this week, one staffer speaking on the condition of anonymity yesterday said that salaries had not been disbursed yet.