Victims of the Khmer Rouge regime on Tuesday said that the U.N. had a moral responsibility to ensure the Khmer Rouge tribunal’s survival despite the Cambodian government’s failure to fulfill its financial obligations to the court.
A lack of funds at the war crimes court has led to 140 national staff going on strike this month due to unpaid wages and no donors have yet come forward with additional funding.
Civil parties in Case 002, in which two senior Khmer Rouge leaders are on trial for crimes against humanity, said that they had little hope the government would meet its commitment to the court, and instead called on the U.N. to make sure that the first trial in Case 002 reaches its conclusion.
“We have the utmost concern that the Khmer Rouge tribunal cannot bring us justice,” said Pen Soeun, 59, a civil party to Case 002 who was the victim of forced labor and a forced marriage under the Khmer Rouge regime.
“On the Cambodian side, the government has used many excuses to slow down progress at the tribunal because they are intent on not allowing the process against the accused to be completed,” Mr. Soeun said.
“So the United Nations, especially His Excellency [U.N. Secretary-General] Ban Ki-moon, should not allow the Cambodian government’s wish to come true,” he added.
David Scheffer, the U.N.’s special expert to the tribunal, slammed the government in a statement last week for failing to meet its legal obligations as outlined in its agreement with the U.N. when the hybrid court was formed.
Yin Sam On, 61, a victim of forced labor whose husband was killed at the S-21 prison, said that she worried that the funding woes, along with the departure next week of the tribunal’s International Co-Prosecutor Andrew Cayley, would prevent a sentence from being handed down in the first phase of Case 002.
“I see that the resignation of the international co-prosecutor as well as the budget crisis on the Cambodian side may end up pushing this court to shut down before prosecuting the accused,” she said.
Mr. Cayley, who has been the top international prosecutor at the court since December 2009, announced Monday that he would be leaving the court and returning to the U.K. later this month for personal and professional reasons.
“This court is like a playground, with the coming and going of defense teams or co-prosecutors halfway through the process. It is ridiculous because it just slows down the progress in prosecuting the accused, who are very old,” Ms. Sam On said.
Barring further delays, closing arguments against Khmer Rouge Brother Number Two Nuon Chea, 88, and former head of state Khieu Samphan, 83, are scheduled for next month. A decision is expected to be handed down next year.
Soum Rithy, 61, a civil party who was imprisoned and tortured by the Khmer Rouge in a Siem Reap prison until the regime was toppled in 1979, said he hoped that with the tribunal so close to completing its most important trial to date, the U.N. and government would find money to pay the national staff, who are owed three months salary.
“I think it is so important for the United Nations to sit down with the Cambodian government to find a resolution for the Cambodian staff. Otherwise, the tribunal will be shuttered and there will be no justice for any of us,” Mr. Rithy said.