The Khmer Rouge tribunal now expects to wrap up its work by 2015, with a peak of activity expected in early 2011 but reductions in annual spending and the progressive closure of offices beginning in 2012, according to budget documents.
The court’s timeline for closing has now been extended at least four times and estimated lifetime costs have quadrupled since donors approved its initial three-year budget of $56.3 million in 2004.
In requesting a total of $140 million in 2008, the court proposed completing all trials and appeals by the end of 2010.
The court now foresees spending about $237 million for the entire decade spanning 2005 to 2015, a sizeable increase on the early estimates but a sum that is still less than the cost of two years’ operations at either the Yugoslavia or Rwanda war crimes tribunals.
The Khmer Rouge tribunal’s current financial blueprint was presented to donor country representatives in New York in December but has not yet been approved. A meeting of the so-called “steering committee” of the six most actively involved donors is expected to review the budget proposals next week.
Lars Olsen, a spokesman for the tribunal, said yesterday that he could not comment on the contents of the budget proposal before its approval, which is expected soon.
Word of the revised budget and timeline was first reported Tuesday by Voice of America News.
Officials at the tribunal have consistently maintained that budgetary planning does not dictate the scope of the judicial process. However, despite dealing with greatest number of estimated victims of any trials since Nuremberg at the end of World War II, donors to the Khmer Rouge tribunal have persisted in requiring that justice be done in less time, for less money.
With the possibility of trying as many as 10 members of the Pol Pot regime and as a more realistic notion of the court’s burdensome workload has come into sharper focus, the court has time and again been required to revise its operating estimates upward.
According to the documents obtained yesterday, as investigations of the Khmer Rouge cease, “the Office of the Co-Investigating Judges and the Pre-Trial Chamber will be phased out in 2012.”
“The Trial Chamber will be phased out in 2014 and the Supreme Court Chamber will be phased out in 2015,” the document states, with all offices at the court expected to close by the end of that year as well.
Former Foreign Minister Ieng Sary, the eldest of the court’s current detainees, will be 90 years old in 2015.
“The efforts by the ECCC to provide a clear perspective for the length of the trials and the necessary funds for the completion of its work are to be commended,” said one donor country representative yesterday, who requested anonymity to avoid breaking ranks with donor countries that have most often spoken as a group.
“The question however whether the court has completed its task is not alone a question of availability of funds but of an assessment whether the court has completed the task given to it under its mandate.”
In the budget proposal presented to donors in New York in December, the tribunal requested a total of $46 million for this year, $34.5 million of which will be devoted to the UN side, representing a 20 percent increase over the 2010 request estimated in 2008.
The court also asked for $47.3 million for 2011, $35.6 million of which is to be spent by the UN side of the court, the tribunal said in a December statement to the news media.
As the tribunal’s activities draw to a close, combined annual spending is to decrease from $44.5 million in 2012, to $41 million in 2013, to $36.2 million in 2014 and $26.4 million in 2015, according to the budget proposal.
Information on staffing levels was unavailable yesterday. However the possibility exists that by the end of this year simultaneous activity will be conducted in all three of the tribunal’s chambers.
With a verdict expected this year in the trial of S-21 Chairman Kaing Guek Eav, the court’s seven-judge Supreme Court Chamber may soon sit on a full-time basis. With indictments expected in the court’s second investigation, Case 002, and two more cases requisitioned by prosecutors, 003 and 004, the court’s Pre-Trial and Trial Chambers may also be active at the same time.
The court in January declined to say precisely how much money the tribunal currently has or when it could run out. There were no immediate budgetary concerns, Mr Olsen, the spokesman, said at the time.
Funding for the tribunal’s Cambodian side remains an unresolved question as the UN Development Program announced last year that it had ended its role as a fund-manager for the court after disbursing all remaining funds, or about $700,000, held in trust for the tribunal.
UNDP’s management of funds had provided an important degree of financial accountability for most of the donors supporting the court’s Cambodian side.
Rafael Dochao Moreno, Phnom Penh charge d’affaires for the European Union, which has so far solely supported the court’s Cambodian side, said yesterday that the EU is hoping to enlist another UN entity to help manage a $3 million donation to the court announced last year.
“We are exploring all the UN family of organizations to see whether or not we can find someone else to accept to be the ones handling EU funds for the Cambodian side of the tribunal but it’s too early to tell,” Mr Moreno said.
“What we have foreseen in our financing agreement with the Cambodian government is that indeed [funding] would be administered,” he said.
“The fact that we have given our support to the Cambodian side of the tribunal is indeed in itself a political sign that we are supporting the tribunal financially and we are supporting the tribunal politically,” he added.
“In the judicial process, you know where you start and you don’t know when you finish.”