Nine Cambodian and foreign Khmer Rouge tribunal judges sat down Wednesday for what has been described as a “now or never” attempt to resolve a dispute over procedural rules that has threatened to derail the court’s work since November.
“Despite some uncertainties, we in the Office of Administration continue pledging our support to your work, knowing how important a successful conclusion of this session is,” Sean Visoth and Michelle Lee, respectively director and deputy director of the court’s administration office, said in a statement to the judges Wednesday.
“The eyes of the world are on us once again during these 10 days,” they added. They also said they had “considerable hope” that the session would be brought to a successful conclusion by March 16, and that a full plenary of judges at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia would be called to adopt the rules soon after.
One person close to the court described the mood on the opening day of deliberations as “not positive, not negative.”
Cambodian and foreign judges held separate, closed-door meetings—the Cambodians in Phnom Penh and the international judges at a hotel in Bangkok—in advance of Wednesday’s meeting at the ECCC.
If the session is not successful, it could mean the end of international participation in the court. Co-Investigating Judge Marcel Lemonde has said that failure to adopt the rules in the earlier part of this year would be “another reason for a withdrawal.”
“We’re working as assiduously as we can to do the job properly,” said Helen Jarvis, ECCC public affairs chief.
“There’s no point in rushing to save time and set up something that will cause problems down the track.”
In the absence of internal rules, which govern everything from defense to victim’s rights, most of the work of the court has stalled.
Lemonde and Supreme Court Chamber Judges Kong Srim and Mong Monichariya declined Wednesday to comment on the on-going talks.