The Khmer Rouge tribunal has been “negligent” in its treatment of civil party reparations, the Open Society Justice Initiative argued in a paper released yesterday.
The court’s trial chamber has said that it “may only endorse reparation measures … where sufficient funding has been secured,” and that a final submission outlining proposed projects and their funding status must be submitted by September 26.
However, as both OSJI and civil party lawyers have made clear, such funding has been in very short supply, and the burden of fundraising has been left entirely to what OSJI characterises in its two-page position paper as an understaffed Victim Support Section and to the civil party lawyers themselves.
“The court’s funding mechanisms puts these costs outside of the core budget and thus place an unfair burden on the Co-Lead lawyers and the civil parties they represent,” OSJI’s paper reads. “The court is negligent in inadequately supporting the Co-Lead lawyers and the VSS with staff and high-level institutional leverage to secure funds and political support for reparations.”
Lead civil party co-lawyer Elisabeth Simonneau-Fort said in an email yesterday that the civil parties still remain far from meeting their needs and noted the situation’s “extraordinary and huge burden: the Civil Party has to find the funding for its reparations if it wants to have any”.
In its position paper, the OSJI highlighted the difficulties of such a situation – the first being that the civil party lawyers are already shouldered with the task of representing nearly 4,000 civil parties in court.
The second, it argues, is that reparations fall by the wayside at a time when the court’s national side is grappling with a staff walkout, and cannot fund even its essential functions.
UN Special Expert to the tribunal David Scheffer, who recently completed a fundraising tour of ASEAN capitals, said in an email yesterday that the subject of reparations had been raised in his meetings, but that the purpose of the tour “was primarily to lay the groundwork for future contributions to the national budget”.
“The reparations projects are extremely important to obtain support for nationally and internationally. However, the imminent deadline of September 26 creates a problem as foreign governments typically require more lead time to consider and then approve project assistance,” he said.
“If more time were afforded us to work this issue, that might prove very helpful.”
Late last month, civil party lawyers filed an update on the funding status of their eight proposed reparations projects – which include things like monuments and mental health programs for victims.
So far, the Documentation Center of Cambodia has accepted the responsibility for two projects: a permanent historical exhibition and a chapter to be included in the manual it publishes on the teaching of Khmer Rouge history.
The only other program that is fully paid for is a “National Remembrance Day”, which, the filing notes, “does not in itself require any funding”.
Despite the lingering questions over funding, however, it is still unclear whether September 26 is a hard and fast deadline.
Court legal communications officer Lars Olsen said yesterday that he was unable to comment on whether the trial chamber would allow for any opportunities to revisit the issue of reparations funding after the 26th, and even Simonneau-Fort said she was unsure what the deadline means.
“Frankly, I don’t know what will happen after the 26th [of] September,” she said.