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)
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 Experts Warn World Losing Ebola Fight

Doctors Without Borders says world is losing battle against Ebola, unless wealthy nations dispatch specialized biological disaster response teams More

Video Experts: Rise of Islamic State Significant Development in Jihadism

Many analysts contend the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years More

US-Based Hong Kongers Pledge Support for Pro-Democracy Activists

Democracy advocates call on Chinese living abroad to join them in opposing new election rules for their home territory 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.
Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearancei
X
Elizabeth Lee
September 02, 2014 8:57 PM
Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearance

Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Experts See Rise of ISIS as Significant Development

The Islamic State’s rise seems sudden. It caught the U.S. by surprise this summer when it captured large portions of northern Iraq and spread its wings in neighboring Syria. But many analysts contend that the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years. VOA's Jela de Franceschi takes a closer look at the rise of ISIS and its implications for the Middle East and beyond.
Video

Video Israel Concerned Over Syrian Rebels in Golan

Israeli officials are following with concern the recent fighting between Syrian rebels and government forces near the contested Golan Heights. Forty-four U.N. peacekeepers from Fiji have been seized by Syrian Islamist rebels and the clashes occasionally have spilled into Israel. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.

AppleAndroid