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KR trial could end in ‘disgrace’: monitor

A general view inside the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia in Phnom Penh this year
A general view inside the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia in Phnom Penh this year. ECCC

KR trial could end in ‘disgrace’: monitor

An international court monitor has warned that the Khmer Rouge tribunal could end up “winding up its operations in disgrace” if it fails to honestly respond to the clear time, funding and political constraints that it faces.

In a position paper released on Sunday, the New York-based Open Society Justice Initiative called for proactive leadership from the court if it wished to go ahead with the second sub-trial of Case 002 as intended.

“Only with honest leadership and immediate planning can the court and the United Nations redeem what minimally must be provided to Cambodians from the original goals of the ECCC,” the paper says.

Given the advanced age and ailing health of the co-accused, stakeholders should consider whether it makes sense to start a trial that is “unlikely” to be completed, it continues.

If donors are willing to fund the court through the second sub-trial, they must stop “dribbling out funding to deal with crisis situations” and make a full public commitment, the paper adds.

“If [donors] are not willing to do so, they should say so honestly now and avoid the travesty of a trial that stops midway before its natural conclusion because of a lack of funding.”

The current impasse could be broken if detailed planning and decision-making begins, a realistic timetable and budget is prepared, and if donors commit, the paper says.

“If [stakeholders] do not step up, two grim alternatives present themselves: either the court will limp along until there is an embarrassing blow-up that results in it winding up its operations in disgrace.

“Alternatively, it could enter an equally embarrassing state of limbo, with staff and judges leaving because the donors stop funding without actually making a decision about how to preserve the benefits of the court for Cambodians.”

Lars Olsen, legal communications officer at the court, said there was no reason to anticipate that the second sub-trial in Case 002 would not go ahead as planned.

“It’s pointless to speculate about the future. There is an order to launch the second trial as soon as possible and I think that’s what’s on the table at the moment,” he said.

Olsen added that the budget process was separate to the launching of the sub-trial.

“Although we have been facing financial difficulties for a larger part of the court … we have received up till now the necessary support from the donors and we hope that donors will provide the funding necessary to complete the court’s mandate.”

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