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

Disappointing Report on China's Economy Shakes Markets

In London and New York shares lost 3 percent, while Paris and Germany dropped around 2.4 percent More

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations 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.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs