Although Cambodian and foreign judges failed to reach a final agreement on the Khmer Rouge tribunal’s internal rules Friday, their two weeks of prior negotiations saw marked progress, the tribunal’s chief of public affairs said Sunday.
But a source close to the tribunal said there is growing cynicism among the international staff about its ability to meet international standards, while a Human Rights Watch official accused the government of deliberately slowing the tribunal down.
The negotiations were intended to resolve a dispute over the internal rules that has bogged down the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia since November. The rules committee of the ECCC will now meet again in March to continue negotiations.
Helen Jarvis, chief of public affairs at the ECCC, described the talks as “a big step forward.”
“On both sides, there were expressions of respect for each others’ positions,” she said Saturday.
During the talks, judges agreed in principle to allow foreign lawyers to participate in the trial alongside Cambodian defense counsel, but crucial details of their participation remain unresolved, Jarvis said.
Officials said that tentative agreements were reached on almost all of the other points in dispute.
But a source close to the court said on condition of anonymity that, although some 80 percent of the international staff believe the tribunal will go ahead, their morale is waning.
The “nightmare scenario” of a withdrawal of international judges remains a real possibility, the source said.
Several rights groups have sharply criticized this latest stalemate in the effort to bring former Khmer Rouge leaders to justice.
“The Cambodian government has an opportunity to show the world that it is serious about finding justice for the victims of the Khmer Rouge,” said Sara Colm, a senior researcher for New York-based Human Rights Watch, on Saturday. “Instead, it is erecting roadblocks based on technicalities,” she claimed.
Ney Thol, ECCC pretrial chamber judge, said the Cambodian judges are dedicated to their work and are operating independently of the government.
Ney Thol, who is not on the rules committee, also said that he could see no sign of international judges walking out. “I don’t see anyone wanting to quit. I just see them working hard,” he said.