Judge Says Bar Must Reconsider Fees by April 3

If the bar association does not reconsider by April 3 the fees for foreign lawyers to participate in the Khmer Rouge tribunal, it will be impossible to adopt the court’s procedural rules by April, a judge said Monday.

“For purely practical reasons, if nothing happens before next Tuesday, it will be impossible to convene the plenary,” French Co-Investigating Judge Marcel Le­monde wrote in an e-mail.

International judges maintain that the steep fees the Cambo­dian Bar Association wants to charge foreign lawyers would severely limit the participation of foreign lawyers in the tribunal, thus depriving defendants of their right to select the counsel of their choice.

If the fees are not lowered, in­ternational judges said in a March 16 statement that they would boycott an April 30 plenary session to adopt the rules, without which a trial cannot proceed.

“At this stage, I can only repeat that it doesn’t seem possible to post­pone once again the beginning of the judicial work and that we hope the problem will be solved,” Lemonde wrote.

ECCC Principal Defender Ru­pert Skilbeck said Monday that he remained optimistic that a so­lution can be reached.

“I will try and do what has to be done as quickly as possible,” he said. “This is something that can be sorted out.”

Speaking to reporters outside a training session for Cambodian lawyers in Phnom Penh, bar association president Ky Tech said the fees—$500 to apply, plus a $2,000 fee and $200 a month if selected to represent a client— were appropriate, given the salar­ies foreign lawyers are likely to receive.

He also reiterated his accusation that international judges were using the fees as an excuse to deliberately obstruct the work of the tribunal.

“It is a childish boycott,” he said. The bar, he added, “is worried because we want judges to approve the internal rules.”

The fracas with the bar has sparked questioning of the bar’s political independence.

“We know Ky Tech is not his own man,” one senior foreign dip­lomat said on condition of anonymity.

Ky Tech called such allegations unjust, adding that the bar is independent.

“Is there any evidence that the government ordered the bar to play an obstructionist role?” Ky Tech asked.

On Friday, the Asian Human Rights Commission, a Hong-Kong based rights group, issued a statement slamming the bar for its decision to im­pose “exorbitant” fees, which it called “im­moral and reprehensible.”

“The [bar association’s] decision has further prolonged the already long-awaited trial and perpetuated doubts about the Cam­bodian government’s sincerity and will to hold this trial at all,” the group said.


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