Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - US Senate moves to block KR trial funds

US Senate moves to block KR trial funds

US Senate moves to block KR trial funds

The Khmer Rouge genocide tribunal may have to go ahead without US Government financial

support.

The US Senate Appropriations Committee has proposed that no government funds be spent

on the tribunal for the fiscal year which started October 1, 2004, according to Heidi

Bronke, public affairs officer at the US Embassy in Phnom Penh.

She said the constraint was included in the draft appropriation bill which still

needs to be considered by the Senate, where it could be approved or amended before

going to the House of Representatives. She said the US Government had long expressed

support for bringing the Khmer Rouge leaders to justice and she did not know the

reasons for the proposed fiscal restraint.

Cambodia is dependent on donor funding for the tribunal and the US is potentially

one of its biggest donor countries. So far, only Australia has made a donation, of

$2.2 million.

Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong met UN Secretary General Kofi Annan in New

York recently and asked him to mobilise funding from donors. The response, said Namhong's

spokesman, was for the request to be made in an official letter to allow Annan to

convene a meeting of potential donors.

The Cambodian National Assembly on October 4 and 5 ratified an agreement with the

UN and passed amendments to Cambodian law which allows the tribunal to proceed once

endorsed by the Senate and signed by the King. It is limited to prosecuting individuals

responsible for genocide and other crimes committed during the period of Democratic

Kampuchea, April 17, 1975 to January 7, 1979.

Hor Nam Hong said Chea Sim, chairman of the Senate, would sign the legislation if

the King did not return to Cambodia in time.

Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, head of the government's KR tribunal task force, said

"We do not know how many leaders of the KR will stand trial, it is dependent

on the prosecutors, but it will be up to ten."

He said Cambodia will contribute $1.4m from the national budget and $6 million in

indirect costs, which was equal to more than 10 percent of the proposed tribunal

budget of $57 million.

The surviving senior leaders of the KR are: brother Number 2 Nuon Chea; former president

Khieu Samphan; former foreign minister Ieng Sary and; Sou Met and Meas Mut, military

commanders who are believed to have been central committee members. They are all

living freely in Cambodia.

In jail awaiting trial are Ta Mok, military commander and central committee member

and Kaing Khek Iev, known as Duch, who ran the Toul Sleng prison where at least 14,000

people were interrogated, tortured and sent for execution.

Samphan, speaking to the Post by telephone from his home in Pailin on October 7,

said that he is ready to stand trial. "I am not concerned about the trial because

I had no important role in the Democratic Kampuchea regime," said Samphan.

"I have published my book, so if I am summoned, I will tell the court to follow

what is in my book," said Samphan.

One of the key issues is how the tribunal will deal with the royal pardon given in

1996 to Ieng Sary (Deputy PM and Minister for Foreign Affairs) for his conviction

and death sentence imposed by the People's Revolutionary Tribunal in 1979 for the

crime of genocide. The judges will have to decide whether Sary can be re-tried. Khmer

Rouge Prime Minister Pol Pot was convicted with him in 1979 but he died in 1998.

According to Sok An's adviser, Helen Jarvis, the current budget estimate the UN and

the government are using is $57 million and no breakdown has ever been made public.

"The original estimate by the UN Secretary General was $19 million for the international

components only. Then Cambodia estimated a $40 million total cost. In March 2004

we agreed on $53 million. Then, when the UN team went back to New York, they raised

it to $64 million.

"Now it's hovering at around $57million. It's very difficult to establish an

accurate figure because there are so many unknowns."

The biggest cost is staff salaries. A total of 300 full-time staff are estimated,

from judges at the top, right down to guards and drivers - 200 Cambodians, 100 foreign.

At least 30 translators and interpreters will be needed according to Jarvis.

"Sok An has said the tribunal will begin in 2005, but just when is impossible

to say until the money comes in and judges are nominated and appointed by the UN,"

she said.

The Government's KRT Secretariat this week began distributing its 23 page public

information booklet, "An introduction to the Khmer Rouge Trials," funded

by AusAid. 15,000 copies are available in Khmer, 2,000 in English.

The booklet states: "Over the years tens of thousands of ordinary Khmer Rouge

soldiers have defected to the government. They have nothing to fear from this court.

The Cambodian Government and the UN decided the court should limit prosecutions to

the senior leaders of Democratic Kampuchea, who planned or gave orders, as well as

those most responsible for committing serious crimes."

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