Threats of a walkout by national staff at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) mounted on Wednesday, as more employees signed on to a joint letter warning they will not return to work after January 31 unless they receive their overdue wages.
The letter was sent to the court’s Office of Administration on Wednesday by staff from the Trial Chamber and was signed by about two-thirds of the court’s 300 national staff.
None of the court’s Cambodian judges or prosecutors have yet signed their names to the work stoppage threat, court press officer Neth Pheaktra said, adding that those who have are demanding that the administration office respond to their demands before January 31, or they will stop work.
“[W]e have gone without pay for almost two months now and especially have heard from the Office of Administration that donors, who always provide financial assistance to the ECCC to pay for staff salary, have not made any funding commitment for 2013 to the national side of the ECCC yet, we are now facing the worst case scenario,” the staff wrote in the letter.
The war crimes court has struggled with funding for years, but its national component even more so, largely in part due to allegations of corruption and political interference at the court, monitors have said.
The most recent publicly available financial data from the court, which shows donations through to the end of October last year, put the total pledged to the international side at $128 million. The national side, however, has been allocated just $42 million—most of it from Japan, the ECCC’s largest donor.
This is the second time that staff on the national side of the court have threatened to stop work because of unpaid salaries.
David Scheffer, the U.N. special expert on U.N. Assistance for the Khmer Rouge Trials, said in an email that balancing the national budget has been a challenge, and suggested that the government—which takes care of operational costs for the national side, but not staff salaries—might have to increase its funding of the court.
“There is a challenge for the national budget, namely to combine both the Cambodian Government’s contribution of $1.8 million with foreign donations to achieve full funding, or increase the government’s contribution and thus reduce the amount needed from foreign donors,” Mr. Scheffer said.
“I have raised the criticality of the national budget with major foreign donors so everyone has eyes wide open on this situation,” he added.