Bar Accuses Judges of Using Fees To Stall Tribunal

The president of the Cambodian Bar Association on Sunday ac­cused international Khmer Rouge tribunal judges of trying to stall the trial by making an issue of the fees the bar wants to charge foreign lawyers.

Tribunal judges announced Friday that the fees demanded by the bar for foreign lawyers wishing to practice at the court were too high for international judges to accept, and remained an obstacle to adopting crucial procedural rules, without which a trial cannot proceed.

Bar President Ky Tech said the bar’s decision on fees should not interfere in the adoption of the rules, adding that international judges had raised the issue “groundlessly.”

“They did not want to go ahead [with the tribunal],” he claimed, adding that international judges were “feeble” for allowing the issue to interfere with the adoption of the rules.

The bar association ruled last week that foreign lawyers wishing to practice at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cam­bodia would have to pay a $500 membership application fee to the bar. If selected to represent a client, they would pay an additional $2,000, plus $200 a month in dues. Bar fees for Cambodian lawyers are lower: $200 to apply and $30 every three months.

International judges worry that the high fees for foreign lawyers will restrict the ability of defendants and victims to select counsel of their choice.

“The international judges consider the fee currently fixed by the bar is to be a prohibitive entry cost,” co-Investigating Judge Marcel Lem­onde wrote in an e-mail message Sunday.

“The result would be to severely limit the number of foreign lawyers willing to appear before the ECCC, allowing any accused to argue that they were not afforded the right to have counsel of choice.” It would also impede pro bono work, he said.

The tribunal’s Principal Defend­er Rupert Skilbeck expressed optimism that the new conflict can be resolved.

“We have to work out a way that allows them to do their job but also allows victims and defendants to have a wide choice of foreign law­yers. I’m confident we can find a way through this issue,” he said.

Mong Monichariya, an ECCC Supreme Court Chamber judge, said that Cambodian judges on the rules committee felt the fees were “appropriate.” He added that they had asked their international counterparts not to use their role as judges to pressure the bar.

The bar’s fees for foreign law­yers are much higher than those at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugo­slavia, the only other war crimes tribunal with lawyer fees.

Annual membership fees for the Association of Defense Counsel, an independent group that provides training and support services to ICTY lawyers, are $159. If assigned as counsel, lawyers must pay monthly fees of $40 during the pre-trial and appeals phases and $79 during the trial proceedings.

International judges said in a Friday statement that, if the fee issue cannot be resolved, they will not call an ECCC plenary session in April to adopt the internal rules.

The judges are, Lemonde said, “prepared to grant the [Cambodian bar association] a last opportunity to resolve this matter. This has been an issue for nine months and all the judges of the ECCC want it resolved immediately so that the courts can begin their much-delayed judicial work.”

 

 

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