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September 18, 2013

UN Secures Funding for Staff at Khmer Rouge Tribunal

by VOA News

The U.N. says it has secured a loan that could allow striking Cambodian staff at the Khmer Rouge war crimes tribunal to return to work.

About 250 local workers at the U.N.-backed tribunal walked off the job earlier this month after not receiving payment from the Cambodian government since June.

It is the latest setback for the court, which has also dealt with allegations of mismanagement and corruption since its creation in 2006.

The U.N. said in a statement it has successfully secured a loan from "major donors" that will allow for the payment of the workers' back wages. Spokesman Lars Olsen said he hopes this will allow the staff to return to work.

The statement also called on Cambodia to "meet its obligation" to pay the salaries of its national staff. It warned further strikes "could risk delaying the judicial proceedings and jeopardize the court's ability to function."

Human rights groups have accused the Cambodian government of withholding funds to obstruct the trials of former leaders of the Khmer Rouge, which is blamed for the deaths of nearly two million Cambodians during its four-year rule in the late 1970s.

The court has handed down only one conviction, and the advanced age of the remaining defendants has cast doubt on prospects of finishing its job while they are still alive or able to participate in their trials for war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity.

Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan, both in their 80s, are the only senior Khmer Rouge leaders alive and considered fit to stand trial. The group's leader, Pol Pot, died in 1998.

Earlier this month, the court was dealt another blow when Andrew Cayley, one of its prosecutors, resigned due to what he said were personal reasons.