After a week of meetings between the government and a UN mission concerning the details of a long-awaited Khmer Rouge tribunal, the two sides said Friday they had agreed on a time frame for the trials, but not on a budget.
“The funding issue remains unresolved,” said Karsten Herrel, team leader of the UN mission. “In our discussions, we did not tackle strategies on how to mobilize the necessary resources.”
Before any of the agreements reached this week can be implemented, the National Assembly needs to ratify an agreement between the government and the UN. The agreement was signed in June to set up the Khmer Rouge tribunal under Cambodian law with a mix of Cambodian and international judges.
Sam Rainsy Party members indicated earlier this week that they would fight against ratification in the Assembly, arguing that the agreement sets up a show trial because judges are appointed by the Supreme Council of Magistracy, a body many, including King Norodom Sihanouk, view as corrupt.
Funcinpec lawmakers, on the other hand, said they would vote for ratification this week. While not perfect, they say, the agreement allows certain clauses—most notably one allowing the UN to pull out of the tribunal if the government tinkers with the agreement—that provide some element of justice for survivors of the 1970s Khmer Rouge regime.
If and when the Assembly ratifies the June agreement, tribunal judges could be appointed within two months, UN and government officials said Friday.
But while the two sides touted points of agreement—such as increased cooperation on witness protection, what documents will need to be translated and whether the trials would be broadcast on the radio—the question of the budget still looms large.
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said earlier this week that the process of setting up the tribunal will only begin once pledges for the first three years of the court’s operation have been received and enough cash for its first year is on hand.
On Oct 20, the government proposed a $40 million budget for the tribunal, half of which would be covered by the UN and the other half by the government.
However, that number was not mentioned by officials on Friday, and they shied away from any specific figures or ranges.
“We agreed on an implementation plan and a concept of operations, which is the first condition to convince potential donors that this program is well-conceived,” Herrel said. “Over the next few weeks we will put the finishing touches on a proposed budget.”
Herrel said that exact figures will be submitted by the UN secretary-general as part of his report to the General Assembly scheduled for early February. So far, the UN has only received funding for this week’s assessment mission.
As the UN will seek donor countries to foot its half of the bill, a government official said Friday that Cambodia will do the same.
While the government will try “as much as possible” to contribute to the tribunal’s coffers, it will seek bilateral assistance from donor countries to fund most its share, said Ang Vong Wattana, secretary of state at the Ministry of Justice. “Frankly speaking, the [Cambodian] budget is short of money,” he said.
Negotiators also said more research needed to be done on the trial venue. They are deciding whether to renovate an existing government building or seek another location. “We are looking for the most cost-effective solutions,” Herrel said.