ECCC Says Bar Association Slowing Progress Over Cash

Khmer Rouge tribunal judges announced on March 16 that the fees demanded by the Cam­bodian Bar Association from foreign lawyers wishing to practice at the court are too high for international judges to accept, and remain an obstacle to adopting crucial procedural rules, without which a trial cannot proceed.

According to a statement by the judges released late on March 16, substantive agreement has been reached on all remaining disagreements in the internal rules, which govern everything from defense to victims rights.

However, some “fine tuning” remains to be done, the statement said.

In the days leading up to this week’s meeting, some international judges said it was a “now or never” moment to organize the tribunal and that failure to adopt the rules in a timely fashion would be a reason to walk out.

International judges said they were prepared to call a full plenary session on April 30 to adopt the rules, provided the fee issue can be successfully resolved.

The Cambodian judges on the rules committee felt the fee issue was outside the scope of the rules debate and should not be an obstacle, the statement said.

The judges invited the bar association to “reconsider its position as soon as possible.”

The bar association ruled this 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. If selected to represent a client, they would pay an additional $2,000, plus $200 a month in dues.

These fees are significantly higher than those at other international criminal courts.

Ky Tech, Cambodian bar association president, said on March 16 that the fees requested were not un­reasonable.

“The foreign defense lawyers at the Extraordinary Chambers make $1,000 a day and $30,000 per month and what about for three years?” he said. “Is it cheap or expensive?”

But ECCC Principal Defender Rupert Skilbeck said pay scales had not yet been set for foreign defense lawyers, though their salaries are expected to be in line with those of foreign prosecutors.                         “The foreign prosecutors are paid according to UN pay scales and no one is making anything near $1,000 a day,” he said.

On March 15, the European Parliament passed a resolution urging the Cambodian government to “allow the Khmer Rouge tribunal to start operating without further delay.”

Members of the parliament added that there is no guarantee of the Cambodian judiciary’s ability to conduct the trials without political interference.

Om Yentieng, Prime Minister Hun Sen’s human rights advisor, called the statement “biased and political.”

“We have given the rights and power to the court and no one else has the power to interfere,” he said.

Theary Seng, executive director of the Center for Social De­velopment, said she was concerned that justice was not the primary goal of the bar.

“They are acting as an impediment towards the larger goal of providing justice and reconciliation to the Cambodian people,” she said. “Can they not see that?”

Ky Tech dismissed those allegations. “We have the intention to have the tribunal be able to move forward, and not have blame put on the bar association that Cam­bodian victims can’t get justice,” he said.




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