More defendants will be named at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, Khmer Rouge tribunal Co-Prosecutor Robert Petit said in an interview.
“We’re working on the evidence in this office. When it’s time to make the decision, we’ll make the decision according to the law,” Petit said at his office June 5. When asked if he would be forwarding more case files to the co-investigating judges for charges to be handed down, Petit said, “Yes.”
Petit stopped short of saying how many more people he would like to prosecute or when he might like to hand a submission over to the court’s co-investigating judges. He did, however, emphasize that he was not interested in “a runaway prosecution.”
“It has to end. At some point, money, patience and evidence will run out,” he said.
Expanding the scope of prosecution beyond the five Khmer Rouge defendants now behind bars has become, for some, a test of the political independence of the ECCC.
Government and court officials have long maintained that the court must not range too widely.
“Peace and justice are sometimes paradoxes,” a Cambodian court official said on condition of anonymity. “If you have eight [defendants], you can have 10, 20, you can have the whole country.”
He added, “First, we have to have peace. But peace cannot be solid without justice. That’s why we want justice now.”
Petit said his decisions on prosecutions hew strictly to the law. “I don’t see how political pressure would have anything to do with the decisions I’m supposed to be making. We make our decisions on evidence and the law. This has to be a limited but credible exercise.”
ECCC Co-Prosecutor Chea Leang said Thursday she was unaware of Petit’s plans to charge more suspects.
Under the rules of the court, Pre-Trial Chamber judges adjudicate disputes between co-prosecutors. Unless four out of five judges agree to block additional prosecutions, they will go forward.
The ECCC is now seeking about $100 million in additional funds, and donors have been watching closely for signs of partisanship. The reforms adopted in the wake of two scathing reviews of the court’s hiring practices and administration seem to have satisfied critics.
In recent weeks, some of the tribunal’s toughest watchdogs have written editorials urging donor support—Human Rights Watch’s Sara Colm in the International Herald Tribune, Professor John Hall in The Wall Street Journal and the Open Society Justice Initiative’s Panhavuth Long.
Donors seem to be falling into line, despite the fact that corruption allegations were never addressed head-on. There are also lingering concerns that unqualified staff members are still in place, even after a donor-mandated job-matching exercise.
One top international official at the tribunal said two employees in his office identified as underqualified are actually among the most productive and talented on his staff.
The Cambodian official said the so-called job-matching exercise merely compared curriculum vitaes with listed job requirements, which encouraged cheats.
“It’s not fair for the guy who [told] the truth,” he said.
Another Cambodian staffer said some of his colleagues are still unqualified and that morale has been eroded by the sense that on the Cambodian side of the court it is often “about family relationships and sentiment.”
“People know if they don’t work hard, no one is going to do anything,” he said. However, in the past three weeks, Cambodian administrators have taken a firmer stance on attendance, which he called “a positive sign.”
Donors to the court are taking a pragmatic stand.
“It will never be perfect. But how good does it have to be to give the Cambodian people justice,” US Ambassador Joseph Mussomeli said in an interview.
The US is considering a contribution to the ECCC on the order of $10 million to $15 million, State Department and congressional sources say. But even if the US determines that the tribunal is up to “international standards” and worthy of funding, money could be difficult to come by in election-year Washington.
Australia and France have already given, together, slightly less than $1.5 million. France may commit another 1 million euros ($1.5 million at current exchange rates) per year, a diplomat close to the negotiations said. Germany is close to finalizing a “significant” contribution to the court’s victim’s unit, diplomats and tribunal staff said.
The Cambodian court official said the current fundraising round is an opportunity for the world to atone for its past sins.
“They failed to help us in the 70s. They allowed the Khmer Rouge to sit in the UN for a long time. When the CPP and Hun Sen went everywhere to say genocide, genocide, genocide, everybody laughed at him,” he said.
Knut Rosandhaug, who took over as the court’s top international administrator this month, said he would not let fiscal constraints determine the scope of justice.
“We are budgeting for all contingencies,” he said. “Funds will not be a limiting factor for judicial people to make substantive decisions.”
Rosandhaug also said there may be funds for more than five defendants, but no one is budgeting for 100.
In the meantime, survivors still carry with them a hazy burden of suffering.
Touch Rotha, 49, who lives in Phnom Penh, was hacked in the head with a hoe and left for dead by Khmer Rouge cadres. Her offense? Stealing a potato.
“I was too hungry,” she said, fingering the indentation in her skull. She figures she survived only because of “magic dew” on the morning grass.
She doesn’t know much about the ECCC, but she can’t conceive how five people alone could possibly have been responsible for so much suffering. “It’s unjust, only five people being tried,” she said.
Who else, then, should be punished? “I don’t know. They all wore black clothes and covered my eyes so I could not see,” she said.
(Additional reporting Prak Chan Thul)