UN Officials Continue Planning for KRT Closure

UN officials are continuing to develop plans to draw the Khmer Rouge tribunal to a close, a UN spokesman for the court said Wednesday. However details of preliminary discussions were unavailable.

In a periodic report released in New York yesterday, the Open Society Justice Initiative, an international organization that monitors the tribunal, warned against adopting a “completion strategy” that could involve transferring the court’s two final cases to ordinary courts within the Cambodian justice system.

The court in December informed donor countries that it intended to complete its current four cases and bring operations to a close in 2015 after spending a total of $237 million since 2006.

This represented the fourth version of the court’s timeline for closure and a quadrupling of cost estimates since 2004, but significantly lower costs than those incurred by the UN’s Yugoslavia and Rwanda tribunals, which do not require voluntary contributions.

Few donors came forward at a pledging conference in May to offer continued support for the tribunal’s operations, leaving 2011 almost completely unfunded.

“The United Nations is continuing to work in close cooperation with the Royal Government to ensure completion of the mandate of the ECCC. Consideration of a possible process for achieving this is at a preliminary stage and we do not wish to preempt how this may develop,” Lars Olsen, a UN spokesman at the court, wrote in an e-mail.

“We all share the aim that the ECCC should leave a strong rule of law legacy in Cambodia and hope to bring a sense of justice and closure to the victims of the terrible crimes committed during the regime of Democratic Kampuchea.”

Since the court’s first fundraising campaign in 2008, donor countries have consistently called for a shorter timeline and lower spending.

Some UN staff at the court have said consideration is underway for procedural amendments in which the court’s operations could be reduced as its final two cases, which have bet staunch government opposition, are transferred to the national court system.

However in its report yesterday, OSJI repeated earlier views that such a scenario would be ill-advised.

Though similar procedures exist at the Yugoslavia tribunal in The Hague, “such as strategy is unlikely to be effective for the ECCC because Cambodian courts still face significant challenges, including unchecked political interference, widespread corruption, and a lack of institutional capacity,” the report said.


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