Khmer Rouge tribunal donors last month unanimously approved a financial blueprint for the court that was leaner, smarter and more sophisticated, budget documents show.
After donors broadly rejected the tribunal’s $170-million budget proposal in January, the court in June delivered a draft that was nearly $30 million lower and would tentatively conclude its work in 2010, or 90 days sooner than the first proposal.
“Every effort has been made to streamline and reduce resource requirements by consolidating tasks and processes,” according to a recently obtained copy of the budget proposal.
Crafted after lengthy consultations with prosecutors, judicial investigators and administrators, as well as a review of likely evidence and testimony, the budget would raise staff levels from 309 to 481 by 2009. Based on a scenario involving a total of eight Khmer Rouge accused, it would also strengthen key offices in the court, making staffing levels more like those of other war crimes tribunals.
Gains made by some cost reductions—21 Cambodian posts proposed in the January version, for example, were reduced through the planned outsourcing of cleaning and gardening services—have been offset by the need to strengthen court functions such as document translation and victim legal services.
The court anticipates hearing 868 witnesses, of whom 258 are expected to testify at trial. A 40,000-page document backlog is to be cleared through outsourced translation services at a cost of $1.8 million, according to the budget proposal.
The average number of document pages processed per month by the court is 4,800 and rising. But by increasing the number of translators and interpreters to 64, the court will be able to translate a bare minimum of 56 percent of those documents, or at least 2,800 pages per month, it added.
According to the proposal, staffing at the Office of the Co-Investigating Judges, the court’s “engine,” has been “woefully inadequate” and should be nearly doubled to 43 members.
While a single team investigating similar crimes for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia would have 15 to 30 members, the tribunal’s judicial investigators have had a combined staff level of 22 and have had to rely heavily on interns, according to the proposal.
“Unless this situation is addressed post-haste, it will have significant consequences for the ECCC as a whole,” it said, because a lack of resources could stall trials, and therefore, appeals.
But the enthusiasm the budget generated among donors has been largely overtaken by events.
The proposal had barely been presented in New York when an unknown number of Cambodian staff members complained of extortion. International donors to the Cambodian side halted funding and the UN’s inspector general arm began a review, which could recommend that kickback claims be investigated.
The court is seeking about $80 million in additional funding, of which $46 million is required to continue operation through the end of next year. Current funding for the court’s UN side is set to expire before the end of this year.
Contributing to the court without first dealing with the allegations would be impossible, a European donor representative said Tuesday. And if the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services does recommend an investigation, and if Cambodia then refuses to allow this, the situation will be particularly grave, he added.
“The Cambodians cannot tell us it was only a few people and there’s no need to do an investigation. No,” he said by telephone from New York. “I am, after all, under clear instructions not to give money to something corrupt. That much is certain.”
Such a dispute could also embolden UN member states opposed to the tribunal and conservative critics who feel it had been unwise all along for the UN to agree to work within a weak Cambodian legal system, he added.
Public Affairs Chief Helen Jarvis said Wednesday it was premature to comment on the possibility of UN calls for an investigation. However, she said the Cambodian side had consistently expressed its will to prevent corruption at the court, adopting a code of conduct and repeatedly warning staff about malfeasance.
Along with tribunal Supreme Court Chamber President Kong Srim, Jarvis was named Friday as an “ethics monitor” who can process complaints about corruption. Director of Administration Sean Visoth also pledged to stand down if any similar complaint submitted from that day on is substantiated.
“The ethics monitor mechanism is the latest expression of our commitment,” Jarvis said.
Peter Foster, the court’s UN spokesman, said Wednesday the court was confident it would get the funding it requires, adding that the limitations of the court’s initial $56.3 million budget of 2004 had at least in part been built in by the donors themselves.
“We are operating under the restrictions that we were given. The needs were foreseen from the very start based on our experience in other courts, but decisions were made to go with a leaner system—at least during our first years,” he wrote in an e-mail.
“I would not want to speculate as to why the budget was done the way it was, however I am certain that the additional requirements for such fundamental needs did not come as a surprise to the donor community,” he added.