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Tribunal: stoppage splits staff

Tribunal: stoppage splits staff

Even as the Khmer Rouge tribunal’s eight Cambodian transcribers publicly announced they had joined the strike yesterday, the total number of national staff strikers had been cut down by about half, due to pressure from the court’s administration.

Following several reports of the Office of Administration telling interpreters and translators to end their strike or face replacement, an interpreter who spoke on the condition of anonymity said that threats and promises had managed to divide his Interpretation and Translation Unit (ITU).

“On my side, almost all translators are now returning to work,” the interpreter said, distinguishing between translators, who deal with court documents, and interpreters, who convert the verbal proceedings between Khmer, English and French.

For those staff who returned to work, the Office of Administration “promised that their salary for the month of March would not be deducted should more funds [be] pledged”, the interpreter said.

The ITU national staff had already softened their initial demands for full payment of their three months’ overdue salaries the day after they began their strike, revising their statement to say they would return to work if their December salaries were paid but would strike again if they were not given new contracts by the end of March.

“Only seven court interpreters including me are still boycotting,” the interpreter said yesterday, but added: “Without us, there will be no hearings for sure.”

A transcriber who asked to be identified only as Dara agreed that interpreters were particularly important to proceedings.  

Dara’s unit had begun its strike last Monday, at the same time as the ITU, and informed the Court Management Section, Dara said. But unlike the ITU, the eight Cambodian transcribers responsible for writing down the court’s proceedings in Khmer had received no response from the court administration.

“The ITU had to agree to strike first before we decided to join them on the strike, because maybe we’re not as necessary,” he said. “Maybe only the interpreters are necessary for the court, so they have more voice. They have more power.”

Usually, the transcribers would have finished writing down the day’s proceedings half an hour after court adjourned and would have finished editing and turned in their transcriptions a day later, but his team was refusing to hand over transcriptions from March 4, when striking began, Dara said.

Dara, whose wife gave birth to their fourth child in January, said more than three months without a salary had been very hard.

According to court press officer Neth Pheaktra yesterday, the Court Management Section and the Administration Office have requested that the strikers return to work through March as the administration tries to find a solution.

The EU is “working on pro-cessing” the remaining funds – approximately $300,000 – it pledged for 2012, which will be used to pay the staff’s December salaries, Pheaktra said. 

With assistance from Joe Freeman

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