US Considers Funding Khmer Rouge Tribunal

Posted by khmernews on June 16, 2008

By Veasna

The US government has been mulling over the Khmer Rouge tribunal’s expense in order that it could decide whether or not to inject fund into the process of the tribunal.
According to an e-mail from US Embassy Spokesman Jeff Daigle, an advisor to the US ambassador-at-large for War Crime Issues, is visiting Cambodia as part of an assessment on possible funding for the Khmer Rouge tribunal.

The US embassy spokesman wrote in the e-mail that “Joseph Mellot, who is with the State Department’s Office for War Crimes Issues, has been in Cambodia since Friday as part of the continuing assessment.”

Up to now, the US has not provided any single cent to the tribunal yet after the senate of this powerful country rejected the funding proposal and forwarded the decision to the Secretary of State.

However, John Kerry, a US senator from the Republican Party, has insisted that the Washington government softens its attitude towards the irregularities which are taking place in the Khmer Rouge tribunal by providing the initial fund of at least US$2 million to relieve the tribunal’s budgetary crisis.

Despite the knowledge that there is widespread corruption and there is no independence in the hybrid tribunal, John Kerry still claimed that direct American funding was very necessary to save the Khmer Rouge tribunal,  which could collapse in the near future due to a looming financial crisis.

The tribunal’s new budget plan which foresees an increase of US$114 million to the original budget will be sent for a discussion in the UN headquarters in New York City next week.

For John Kerry, if the US decides to fund the Khmer Rouge tribunal, the fund should be dedicated to support the victims’ rights and witness protection programs run by the United Nations.

The Cambodian side of the tribunal was estimated to have run of fund in April and the UN side will be at the end of 2008. However, thanks to the financial assistance from France, the EU, and Australia, the Khmer Rouge tribunal is still moving gradually forward.

The director of the Human Rights Watch-International has appealed to the prospective donors, especially the US, to consider carefully before injecting the fund paid by their people through tax into the Khmer Rouge tribunal.

The director has also recalled the scandals of corruption amongst the high-ranking officers of the Khmer Rouge tribunal. “With the intention to see justice and fairness, will those countries give their fund to this kind of tribunal,” said the director.

According to a report of the US-based Open Society Justice Initiative, which had conducted an audit on the tribunal, all the departments of the tribunal were believed to be covered with corruption, i.e. the employment practice which unqualified staff had been recruited thanks to their networks or powerful relatives in the tribunal. Other allegations included the unspecified expense and lack of transparency.

Khmer Rouge tribunal’s leading officials were so enraged at the report, and as a result, Sean Visoth, director of the Office of Administration of the Khmer Rouge tribunal, immediately cut off the relationship with OSJI.

However, the results of the audit were what the donor countries had wanted in order to ensure that the tribunal was using their fund on the right track.

It is believed that for this reason, the Khmer Rouge tribunal then hired a lamentable Indian auditing company and Cambodian experts to assess the irregularities in the tribunal.

After two week of the assessment in April, a report was released, claiming that there were positive signs and smooth procedures in the tribunal. However, the director of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), an important monitor of the tribunal’s expense, pointed out that the staff employment practice at the Khmer Rouge tribunal did not conform to the legal procedure. Those staff were roughly recruited without careful consideration of the qualifications, said the director.

In this circumstance, the US is showing that it wants to give contribution to support the Khmer Rouge tribunal, but at the same time insisting that the tribunal shows its transparency and conforms to the so-called international standards [first].

Unofficial Translation
-Extracted from Moneaksekar Khmer, vol. 15, #3472, Thursday, May 29, 2008.


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