Published on August 31, 2007
Cambodia's UN-backed genocide tribunal to try senior members of the former Khmer Rouge still faces funding worries, according to the Open Society Justice Initiative, an NGO monitoring the tribunal.
The NGO has urged donors such as France and Japan to review the process of the Extraordinary Chamber in the Court of Cambodia (ECCC) and its US$56.3-million (Bt18.4-billion) budget.
Concern has been growing among NGOs and the media recently about whether the budget is sufficient for three years of trials.
"It is not true that NGOs have called on donors to look over the ECCC expenses, but the United Nations Development Programme is auditing the ECCC - and will continue to do this auditing," said Reach Sambath, a spokesman for the tribunal. He wasn't concerned about the lack of money for this year - but, rather, over the next two years.
The tribunal budget of US$56.3 million is modest in comparison to the International Criminal Tribunals for former Yugoslavia (US$1.2 billion), Rwanda (US$1.1 billion), and Special Court for Sierra Leone now trying former Liberian president Charles Taylor in The Hague (US$76 million).
Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Centre of Cambodia (DC-Cam), said people were concerned about the lack of budget because they want to see a successful trial.
"The main goal is to push for joint tribunal from the international community to resolve the human rights violations in the past and for memory retention, which is of paramount important to justice," he said.
The Open Society Justice Initiative concluded there was no money in the budget for a plenary session before the trial commences, travel for UN staff to engage in outreach programmes, international witness protection, officers to develop trial completion strategies, travel money for prosecutors, scanners, and visual or audio recording equipment.
The tribunal budget is managed - and was negotiated - by a Cambodian government taskforce in 2004 with assistance from the United Nations.
The UN has received US$43 million from 18 countries including the European Union, plus a recent donation from Microsoft. The money is being used to pay for the international judges. It isn't enough, according to Reach. They need anotherUS$3.2 million.
Reach Sambath said the money from the Cambodian government amounted to US$13.3 million and it needed another US$4.9 million. The government is contributing US$1.5 million directly to the court for salaries and US$5.2 million for indirect costs such as premises, security, detention, medical care, outreach, utilities, and bus services.
Cambodia has also received about US$2 million from India and European Union as well US$30,000 from Thailand. The court decided to use this small amount to build a garden, said Reach.
The tribunal was established in February 2006 to try leaders or those most responsible for the death of about two million people during 1975-79, when the ultra-radical Khmer Rouge had power. Most victims died of hard work, malnutrition, starvation or complete lack of medical services, but thousands were also murdered.
So far, the judges have officially charged just one of five initial suspects. "Duch", whose real name is Kaing Guek Eav, ran the infamous Toul Sleng (S-21) prison in Phnom Penh, where thousands were tortured and killed. Only a handful sent to Toul Sleng survived.
The other four suspects have not been named publicly yet and still live freely in Cambodia.
On October 10, moves will be made to raise further funds from all 192 UN member states.