Bar Association To Meet Over Foreign Lawyer Fees

The governing council of the Cambodian Bar Association is scheduled to meet this afternoon to decide whether to reduce the controversial fees it plans to charge foreign lawyers wishing to appear before the Extraordinary Cham­bers in the Courts of Cambodia, bar members said Thursday.

The Bar Council will reportedly consider three options: keep the current fees, cut them in half, or levy a flat $500 fee. Two of the council’s 19 members said Thursday that they were open to compromise. “In my view, I will de­crease the fee,” said Bar Council member Yin Wengka.

Council member Uk Phourik said that the most important item on the council’s agenda is to reach a compromise that would allow foreign lawyers to appear before the court.

“I will participate to have the com­promise,” he said, adding that he would vote to decrease the fees, but not by a lot.

Bar President Ky Tech could not be reached for comment.

International judges have said the proposed fees, amounting to $4,900 in the first year, are the sole remaining roadblock to adopting the court’s crucial internal procedural rules, which have been under discussion since November and without which a tribunal cannot proceed.

“I’m very pleased there is a meeting of the Bar Council tomorrow,” the ECCC’s principal defender, Rupert Skilbeck, said Thursday. “I’m confident they can come to a decision that will allow the trial to move forward.” If they do, he ad­d­ed, a plenary session of judges could be called by the end of May to adopt the internal rules.

Speaking to 50 Kompong Cham province villagers at a public information session on the court hosted by the Documentation Center of Cam­bodia on Thursday, Funcin­pec lawmaker Monh Saphan also ex­pressed his optimism. “There is no problem over the internal rules and the fees,” he said. “These problems will be solved. Japan is helping the Bar Association so it can reduce the fee.”

The Japanese Embassy did not respond to requests for comment.

Earlier this month, the international judges at the tribunal issued a statement saying that, if the bar did not reconsider the proposed fees by the end of April, they would seek to eliminate the bar’s role in the registration and discipline of foreign attorneys at the ECCC.

The ECCC’s Cambodian judges responded with a statement of their own, saying that such a move would not be consistent with the laws and agreements that govern the court..

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