With negotiations approaching on the closure of the Khmer Rouge tribunal, the Open Society Justice Initiative yesterday renewed its call on Cambodia and the UN not to shunt aside investigations that are opposed by the government.
In publicly appealing to donors for additional funding in September, Cabinet Minister Sok An said officials were preparing to develop a “completion strategy” to end the court’s work, which budgetary scheduling foresees in 2015.
Prime Minister Hun Sen told visiting UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in a meeting last month that tribunal cases beyond the one slated for trial next year would be blocked by the government, a position the premier has held in one form or another since at least 1999.
The court’s additional cases, known as 003 and 004, face a future in which money, time and political will may well be lacking due to the government’s steadfast opposition and insufficient financial support from donor countries.
In a report released in New York yesterday, OSJI said options currently under consideration by the UN–including the referral of the additional cases to domestic courts–could appear to be a convenient solution but would in fact scotch any hope of justice.
“If any of these cases are dismissed, transferred or otherwise handled in a manner that does not evidence independent decision making consistent with international standards, the court will be left with a legacy of impunity rather than justice in spite of its accomplishments in other cases,” the report said.
“There is no evidence that the problems with independence and capacity in the Cambodian judicial system that originally necessitated extensive international participation in the ECCC have improved enough to justify international withdrawal from a mass atrocity trial.”
The report said administrations should prepare to try the additional cases, which could likely be investigated in a comparatively short time, simultaneously in the court’s Trial Chamber.
Lars Olsen, the UN legal communications officer for the court, referred questions to the UN secretariat and Cambodian government. UN tribunal adviser Clint Williamson was due to arrive in Phnom Penh today for talks expected to concert the court’s budget shortfall.
“We do carry out the mandate of the ECCC,” said Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan, adding that the government viewed cases 003 and 004 as outside the court’s mandate. “We cannot go beyond the mandate.”