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UN visit poised to set budget for KR tribunal

UN visit poised to set budget for KR tribunal

The budget for the Khmer Rouge Tribunal will be finalised during the visit of a United

Nations team to Phnom Penh on August 23, for up to 10 days, led by Karsten Herrel,

the co-ordinator for UN assistance.

The working total for the estimated three years of sittings and judicial investigations,

is $57 million, but donor countries have indicated they want this substantially reduced.

Sean Visoth, executive secretary of the government's Khmer Rouge Tribunal Task Force,

said the final cost would be discussed with donor countries. Cambodia is dependent

on donors for its share of the cost.

So far only the Australian government has given money. KRTF sources said other donors

were holding off making pledges until the tribunal agreement between the Cambodian

Government and the UN is passed by the National Assembly.

There is still no clear indication when the assembly will consider the agreement.

Vice-chairman Heng Samrin announced yesterday to members that there is no agenda,

and no date for the first working meeting of the assembly. The standing committee

determines the agenda and Prime Minister Hun Sen has said the KRT agreement is a

high priority.

Hun Sen has also said he plans to discuss the tribunal when he meets the UN Secretary

General, Kofi Annan, in New York next month at the UN General Assembly meeting.

The internet edition of the Taiwanese newspaper China Post said there have been concerns

among human rights groups that some of the Khmer Rouge leaders might escape prosecution,

because they are past, present or potential political allies of Hun Sen, "who

exercises virtually unchallenged control over the country's administration".

Cabinet spokesman Penn Thol gave an assurance that no one would be exempt from justice

at the trials, which will have joint teams of Cambodian and foreign prosecutors and

judges. "Cambodia will not seek pardon or forgiveness for any person who might

face investigation or prosecution for the crimes stated in this agreement,"

he said after a Cabinet meeting.

Approval of the agreement will allow appointments to made of staff and judges for

the tribunal.

The Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee (CHRAC) and 36 other civil society NGOs,

released a signed petition on August 11, calling on the government to select judges

of integrity and ability, in an open and fair process.

The statement praised the government and the UN for having reached an agreement,

and "hope that a fair, credible, transparent and independent tribunal can bring

renewed hope for Cambodian society".

The petitioners requested that judges not be members of the Supreme Council of Magistracy;

hold a law degree; have at least three to seven years experience; do not accept instructions

from any government or other source; not have previous involvement in any capacity

involving a person likely to be investigated or prosecuted by the tribunal.

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