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Lack of Funding Dogs Khmer Rouge Tribunal

  • Luke Hunt

The Khmer Rouge Tribunal in Cambodia began hearings less than two weeks ago. However, officials are already warning the trial is headed for bankruptcy unless donors increase their financial commitments and deliver on previously pledged cash donations. From outside the court in Phnom Penh, Luke Hunt reports.

Funding for the tribunal is divided between the Cambodian and the United Nations parts of the court. It is the Cambodian section that is experiencing a massive shortfall, with some donors yet to make good on promised assistance.

According to a revised budget forecast, the courts established to try surviving leaders for the deaths of 1.7 million people will need an additional $44.1 million, on top of the original $56.3 million, if it is to last until the end of 2009.

Tribunal spokeswoman Helen Jarvis says time is of the essence.

"February payroll has been paid, but we don't have enough to pay the March payroll, so its certainly a serious matter. However, we've have long believed this court is not going to close down because of a lack of money and we imagine and we are confident that this crisis will be overcome," she said.

The United States, Japan, the European Union and Australia have all contributed to the tribunal, which is expected to last at least two years. But diplomatic sources say they will be careful in handing out money for the trial after witnessing cost overruns at other war crime tribunals - especially in Rwanda.

About a third of this country's population died under Pol Pot's rule, from 1975 to 1979. Justice has been a long time coming, as ongoing civil wars and marathon haggling with the United Nations about the make-up of the court resulted in lengthy delays.