The chief of a five-member UN mission, in town this week to assist the establishment of a Khmer Rouge tribunal, sounded cautious but hopeful Sunday, saying the government and the UN intend to see the new judiciaries up and running in 2004.
Karsten Herrel, who served in the Untac administration, said the week will be spent in discussions mainly with the Cambodian Khmer Rouge tribunal task force, headed by Minister of Cabinet Sok An, but also with members of involved ministries, several NGO representatives and potential donors. “What we are trying to achieve is a tight partnership with the task force,” he said at a news conference at the Hotel Cambodiana.
The two camps this week are just trying to agree on how the Extraordinary Chambers should work and what will be required to ensure they do that. Precise budget figures shouldn’t be expected by Saturday, Herrel warned.
Expected topics of discussion include matters logistical, financial, judicial and legal, of witnesses, evidence, translation, dissemination, archiving, facilities and security, Herrel said.
“This assessment visit and what will come out of it will be absolutely essential to convince donor states that this…is worth investing in,” he said
On Oct 20, the government pitched a $40 million budget plan to potential donors that would call on the UN to pay $20 million and Cambodia to raise the other $20 million for the trials.
Herrel emphasized that all budget projections issued so far have been provisional and said that no specific pledges have yet been made. He characterized tribunal financing as “quite difficult” at present. He also said that UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan is scheduled to announce today that a new report on the Khmer Rouge tribunal will be presented to the UN General Assembly in early February. That report is expected to provide an update on negotiations, approximate budget figures and solicit voluntary financial support from member states.
Although Australia, Britain, France, India, Japan, Russia and the US have all expressed interest in supporting the tribunal, diplomats have said that their governments will require solid and precise budget figures before amounts are considered.
Addressing the timing of the mission’s visit, given that the government’s agreement with the UN has not yet been approved by the National Assembly and a new government has not been agreed upon, Herrel said, “Some people have raised the question of whether we may be going too fast here, jumping the gun.”
“The establishment of a mixed tribunal…is a very complex undertaking,” he said. “It takes time and we don’t want to start this thinking process only after the final [authorization] of the agreement.”
The Extraordinary Chambers will consist of a Trial Chamber, with three Cambodian judges and one international judge, and a Supreme Court Chamber, with four Cambodian judges and three international judges.
Although Cambodian judges will control the majority in both chambers, the UN has reserved the right to pull out of the tribunal if it finds it corrupt or farcical.
Government officials have called the ratification of the long-awaited and gruelingly negotiated agreement with the UN a priority of the next National Assembly.