With five suspects behind bars and its first hearing held, progress at the Khmer Rouge tribunal has exceeded expectations in the last six months, judges from the court said Monday.
Instead of the acrimony which caused the court’s first plenary session to break down in November 2006, the court’s third semiannual conference heard Monday that the tribunal is now moving swiftly toward trials and delivering relatively inexpensive justice.
The court is required to convene a plenary session every six months to review amendments to the court’s rules and internal directives.
Presiding over the session Monday, Supreme Court Chamber President Kong Srim remarked that the court’s five Khmer Rouge regime suspects were detained and charged in just four months.
Despite pressing concerns that the court will soon run out of money, Kong Srim added that with an annual budget of roughly $20 million, the court is far smaller than the tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, budgeted at $138.5 million and $157.5 million, respectively.
With the adoption of the court’s rules in June last year, focus has shifted from the disagreements and personalities at the court to the work set out before it, said Hisham Mousar, a court monitor for local rights group Adhoc. “The judges are much less tense then they were seven months ago,” he said.
The agenda for this week’s meeting has not been made public, but Mousar said sources at the court have indicated that discussion will likely include the court’s budget and an internal directive on the long-awaited Victim’s Unit, which is still in formation.
Tribunal Public Affairs Chief Helen Jarvis said Monday that a section chief for the victim’s unit has been nominated and will take up the position shortly.
“The unit is going forward,” she said. “The basic operating expenses have been factored into our current budget.”