FRANCE and Japan are leading an attack by potential donor countries to slash the
Khmer Rouge Trials budget by 50 percent to $30 million, according to KR researcher
and political scientist Craig Etcheson.
He said the United States, Britain, Australia, Scandinavian countries and Holland
were also highly critical of the $60 million the UN Secretariat initially came up
with "and they too are pushing for a sharply reduced budget".
The French and Japanese embassies in Phnom Penh declined to comment. The KR Trials
Secretariat said there was no funding crisis developing.
Etcheson (who is US-based but does frequent specialised contract research in Cambodia)
said: "The only way to reduce the budget by 50 percent for the three-year proceedings
would be to drastically cut the number of UN personnel involved in the KRT, since
personnel costs comprise about half the Secretariat's original figure. That would
have significant implications for the conduct of the tribunal."
He said the heavy expenses of other international criminal courts were causing donor
fatigue "and it looks like the Cambodia tribunal is going to bear the consequences
of that fatigue".
Sean Visoth, executive secretary of the KRT Secretariat, said: "We are as anxious
as the other parties to see the budget reduced, but we have to bear in mind the need
to meet international standards of justice. We have not been told anything, but there
is not a crisis happening."
He declined to be specific about areas that could be trimmed, but Helen Jarvis, adviser
to the chairman, Sok An, has said recently that the interested states had suggested
a list of about 50 possible cost cuts.
The Post understands items such as lower-specification vehicles, cheaper Thai-made
bulletproof glass, and bulk-purchasing discounts for office furnishings and computer
equipment available through the UN are on the list.
The current Cambodian share is $15 million to be met from the national budget and
donors. So far only Australia has made a pledge, of $2.2 million.
The hypothetical scenario on which the proposed $60 million budget is based presumes
10 indictments, seven trials and five convictions. In this vein, a conviction would
cost $12 million.
An unsigned but authoritative paper circulating in Phnom Penh (the author wishes
to remain anonymous) argues that $60 million "should be seen as a bargain"
compared with the cost of other international criminal courts.
The budget for the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY)
is now $135 million a year; so far it has cost over $900 million for 10 years of
full operation. The cost per conviction so far is $34 million.
The budget for the Rwanda Tribunal is $177 million for 2004 alone, and has a total
cost estimated at $1.5 billion over 15 years. The cost per conviction so far is $50
The Iraqi Tribunal that will try Saddam Hussein and his senior henchmen has a budget
of $75 million for two years.
The Sierra Leone Special Court has been pledged $71 million for three years.
The unsigned paper says: "After years of negotiations between the UN and Cambodian
Government, and after the international community has repeatedly insisted that an
agreement be reached, the choice at this point should be between all and nothing.
Doing nothing is not acceptable. Therefore the international community should make
a full financial contribution to support the court.
"The opportunity is open for a limited time. The alternative to buying in now
is to run a high risk of having a deeply flawed court that must be funded anyway,
and yet may not achieve justice in the end."
The Khmer Rouge Trial Task Force (KRTF) has announced that it is about to publish
a 20-page booklet on the proposed trials to assist public understanding and encourage
potential witnesses to come forward. A donor country, understood to be Australia,
is meeting the unstated cost.
The initial print run will be 15,000 in Khmer and 2,000 in English. The booklet title
was not stated.
The content has been written in layperson language. Contributors and consultants
included members of the secretariat, a number of NGOs and legal experts. The final
draft will be submitted to the KRTF chairman, Sok An.
Distribution throughout the country will be via two NGO networks, print media and
all radio stations.
"It is in the interest of the government to provide accurate information to
the public. The primary purpose of the Extraordinary Chambers is to bring justice
to the people of Cambodia. All Cambodians live with the burden of the nightmare of
the past. If our people do not understand the process, how can they benefit from
or participate in the Extraordinary Chambers? When the Office of Administration is
set up (after ratification and calls for funding) there will be a [communications]
media division that will regularly provide outreach to the people. The information
booklet is simply the first small step."