The Khmer Rouge tribunal has told donor countries it can complete its work early and in the process spend about $30 million less than previously proposed, officials said.
At a meeting in New York on Friday, the new proposal was well received by donor countries, who appear likely to renew their financial support, a European diplomat at the UN said.
Donors balked earlier this year at an initial draft budget completed in January, which called for the court to continue operations until March 2011 with all past and future expenses totaling nearly $170 million, $114 million more than the court’s 2004 budget of $56.3 million.
Offering to deliver justice in less time, for less money, the court has now proposed ceasing operations at the end of 2010 with a total of $142.59 million spent over its entire five-year life span, the European diplomat said Friday on condition of anonymity.
The new budget proposes about $8.7 million in contingency funding for the year 2010 if more than the current five suspects are ultimately brought to trial, he added.
The tribunal’s international co-prosecutor, Robert Petit, could not be reached Sunday, while Chea Leang, his Cambodian counterpart, declined to comment.
Linda Ryan, who stepped down Friday as the court’s international chief of budget and finance, confirmed the new, reduced funding level but added that the tribunal’s financial planning should not be seen as dictating the scope of its judicial work.
“It is not appropriate to look at the judicial process and compare it with a budget plan,” she said Sunday, adding that dollar amounts may change as a result of judicial developments. “The judicial process is separate.”
Donor criticism of the January draft budget led to several months of revision and review coordinated by David Tolbert, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s adviser on the tribunal and former registrar and deputy prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.
Tolbert’s influence on the budget process was very positive, officials said.
“He certainly came back to us with something that makes my life a lot easier,” the European diplomat said by telephone from New York.
Any details about staffing foreseen in the new budget were not available Sunday; however, the January budget called for 168 international and 362 Cambodian posts.
“It was like the Mexican army, a lot of high ranking titles that people didn’t understand,” said the European diplomat, adding that donors reacted poorly to the January proposal’s unexplained funding increases.
“It was not a very serious budget proposal. People were not very happy with it,” he said.
Having spent close to $25 million in 2006 and 2007 combined, the court now proposes to spend almost $37 million per year in 2008 and 2009 and a further $24 million in 2010, with contingency funds for 2010 of just less than $7 million for the international side and less than $2 million for the Cambodian side if additional suspects are tried, according to the source in New York.
Additional contingency funding of more than $11 million would bring the total budget to a little less than $143 million, he added.
Ryan said taking almost $30 million off the court’s budget proposal while shortening its life by only three months had been “a radical reduction.”
Ryan declined to provide details about specific changes in funding but said the court had closely reexamined anticipated spending.
“We’ve just made it more cost effective,” she said.
At their Friday meeting, donors raised questions about contingency funding as well as administrative and consultancy costs, but they were largely positive, the European diplomat said.
The court is to announce the results of that meeting and offer a summary of recent contributions Tuesday.
(Additional reporting by Yun Samean)