News / Asia

Khmer Rouge Tribunal Stalls Amid Troubles

Khmer Rouge tribunal in Cambodia (file photo)Khmer Rouge tribunal in Cambodia (file photo)
x
Khmer Rouge tribunal in Cambodia (file photo)
Khmer Rouge tribunal in Cambodia (file photo)
TEXT SIZE - +
Robert Carmichael
— The United Nations-backed tribunal investigating Cambodia's murderous Khmer Rouge movement ran into more trouble this week, suspending hearings after a strike over unpaid wages and the illness of one of the three defendants.

It has been an eventful week for the embattled Khmer Rouge tribunal. On Monday, as British journalist and author Philip Short prepared to take the stand to start several days of testimony, the entire Cambodian translation team went on strike over unpaid wages.

The Khmer Rouge tribunal operates in three languages - Khmer, French and English. Without the Cambodian translators, there was no way it could proceed. Hearings remain suspended.

The United Nations pays the wages of the international employees, while the Cambodian government is responsible for the salaries of national staff.  None of the Cambodian staff has been paid since November.

Since the court opened in 2006, the government has contributed around $15 million in cash and in kind to the tribunal, but has relied on foreign donors to foot its portion of the wages bill.

Funding issues

Government spokesman Ek Tha reckons donors are reluctant to pay because they have to contend with their own financial issues. He insists the government is committed to the tribunal, and is adamant that it will not collapse.

The situation, says Anne Heindel, a legal adviser with the research organization the Documentation Center of Cambodia, or DC-Cam, has produced a standoff between donors and government.

"It seems as if donors are not willing to provide that funding any more, and the international side is having its own difficulties getting funded, and has over the last few years had its own share of crises, and at least at the moment it appears there's no state willing to step in and fill that gap," she said.

Defendent absent

Former Khmer Rouge second-in-command Nuon Chea, former President Khieu Samphan and former Foreign Minister Ieng Sary (L-R) attend their trial at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, November 21, 2011.Former Khmer Rouge second-in-command Nuon Chea, former President Khieu Samphan and former Foreign Minister Ieng Sary (L-R) attend their trial at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, November 21, 2011.
x
Former Khmer Rouge second-in-command Nuon Chea, former President Khieu Samphan and former Foreign Minister Ieng Sary (L-R) attend their trial at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, November 21, 2011.
Former Khmer Rouge second-in-command Nuon Chea, former President Khieu Samphan and former Foreign Minister Ieng Sary (L-R) attend their trial at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, November 21, 2011.
Later on Monday it emerged that one of the three defendants - the former foreign minister Ieng Sary - had been taken to hospital.

At 87, Ieng Sary is the oldest of the defendants and widely regarded as the most frail. On Wednesday, one news outlet reported that Ieng Sary's health was critical. Michael Karnavas, Ieng Sary's international defense lawyer, would not go that far but he did say his client's health is extremely serious.

The health of the three defendants - who are in their 80s - has long been a concern. In January, Nuon Chea, known as Brother Number Two, was treated in hospital for acute bronchitis. Khieu Samphan, the former head of state, was also hospitalized for fatigue and shortness of breath.

Later this month the tribunal will hold health hearings for Ieng Sary and Nuon Chea. Michael Karnavas says Ieng Sary's heart problems and other ailments mean he is unable to take a meaningful part in his own defense.

"Were you to ask me: Do you see him being able to be in court any time soon? The answer is no. If he comes back in court and he's in the present condition, is he able to follow the proceedings? The answer is no," he said.

Previously the three defendants have waived their right to be present in court, which has allowed hearings to continue in their absence. Michael Karnavas says Ieng Sary will no longer issue a waiver.

"So effectively the trial will have to come to a grinding halt until such time as he's better. And I think right now the situation is more or less ripe to start considering severance," he said.

Should Ieng Sary's case be severed, that would effectively mean the end of his trial.

Mini-trials in jeopardy

DC-Cam's Anne Heindel says the tribunal's woes go beyond health issues and funding. Last month, the Trial Chamber was ordered to revisit its 2011 decision that divided "Case Two," as the case against the ex-leaders is known, into several mini-trials. The first of those smaller trials, which began more than a year ago, has mainly addressed the forced movement of people in 1975.

However, few people expect the tribunal to ever proceed past this first mini-trial, and that meant the judges effectively excluded the crimes that affected most Cambodians, who spent the years from 1975 to 1979 enslaved in work camps.

In the coming weeks, the Trial Chamber will decide which crimes to add to the first mini-trial. However Heindel believes key charges will remain absent.

"I don't expect we'll hear anything about genocide, about forced marriage, about work sites - things that average Cambodians find quite important, or survivors find quite important, because they relate to their experiences during the regime," she said.

Heindel says the confluence of all of these issues is damaging.

"It's not looking good for the court's legacy because Case Two is the court's centerpiece case: it was supposed to address the senior surviving leaders, it's supposed to address crimes throughout Cambodia," she said.

Two million people died during the Khmer Rouge's rule of Cambodia between 1975 and 1979. Three decades later the tribunal's ongoing problems risk overwhelming its central purpose: to deliver a vital reckoning for some of the worst crimes of the 20th century.

You May Like

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

John the XXIII and John Paul II will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square on April 27 More

Thailand Reacts to Plots Targeting Israelis

Authorities hope arrest of two Lebanese suspects will disrupt plot to attack young Israeli tourists More

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

'Once Upon a Forest' takes viewers deep into heart of tropical rainforest More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Churchi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
Jerome Socolovsky
April 22, 2014 4:14 PM
On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Robotic Mission Kicks Up Lunar Dust

A robotic mission to the moon was deliberately crashed onto the lunar surface late last week, but not before scientists had collected data gathered by the spacecraft which was designed to self-destruct. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports on the preliminary findings of the craft, called LADEE - an acronym for Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer.
Video

Video Boko Haram Claims Responsibility for Bombing in Nigerian Capital

The Nigerian militant group known as Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for a bombing in the capital on April 14th that killed 75 people. In the video message, Abubakar Shekau, the man who says he ordered the bombing, says nothing about the mass abduction of more than 100 teenage girls, most of whom are still missing. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Abuja.
Video

Video Ukraine Developments Hang Over Obama Trip to Asia

President Barack Obama's trip to Asia this week comes as concerns over Beijing's territorial ambitions are growing in the region. Those concerns have been compounded by Russia's recent actions in Ukraine and the possibility that Chinese strategists might be looking to Crimea as a model for its territorial disputes with its neighbors. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid