News / Asia

Cambodian War Crimes Court Staff Prepares to Strike

Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, court officers of the U.N.-backed war crimes tribunal are seen through windows during a hearing of former Khmer Rouge top leaders in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. (File photo)
Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, court officers of the U.N.-backed war crimes tribunal are seen through windows during a hearing of former Khmer Rouge top leaders in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. (File photo)
Robert Carmichael
— Around 100 staff members at Cambodia’s cash-strapped war crimes court will begin an open-ended strike Sunday because they have not received their salaries since May. The pending strike has prompted U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to call for donations to the court if it is not to collapse.
 
Tribunal spokesman Neth Pheaktra said none of the 250 Cambodian employees at the Khmer Rouge tribunal has been paid in three months, and their situation has become intolerable.
 
The national side of the court needs $3 million to fund its operations through to the end of the year.
 
Neth Pheaktra said staff at the court - known formally as the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, or ECCC - do not want to strike, and are well aware that this action will effectively halt court proceedings.
 
“The Cambodian staff have the majority in the court and [if] they don’t come to work, it means the function of the court will be blocked. And if no translator, no interpreter, and other section does not work, it means that the work of the ECCC will block - and we take the high risk to delay the process. And we don’t want, but we have no choice because we cannot work without payment,” said Pheaktra.
 
The Khmer Rouge tribunal is a hybrid court with an international component and a national one.
 
The United Nations is responsible for securing funding for the international side. That part of the court has enough money for now.
 
The problem is on the national side - which is the responsibility of the Cambodian government. To date, Phnom Penh has relied on donors to fund the bulk of that work, but, not for the first time, the money has dried up, and that is why the Cambodian staff have not been paid.
 
But for the court to collapse for want of a few million dollars would be an embarrassment for the United Nations. That is one reason U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has asked countries to donate.
 
Speaking at The Hague Wednesday, Ban said the tribunal had achieved some notable victories.  “Yet today the Court is in crisis. The voluntary contributions on which the Court depends have run dry. The very survival of the Court [is] now in question," he stated. "Financial failure would be a tragedy for the people of Cambodia, who have waited so long for justice. It would also be a severe blow to our shared commitment to international justice.”
 
Earlier this month Ban sent his envoy, David Scheffer, to four Asian nations in order to raise funds.
 
In an email to VOA, Scheffer said that the countries he had visited - Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei and Malaysia - were considering financial support. However, there is no indication of when the cash would come, assuming it comes at all.
 
Scheffer said urgent discussions were taking place at U.N. headquarters in New York. He has also asked the Cambodian government to step in and pay national staff.
 
The timing of the strike has come at a key moment. The court is preparing for closing arguments in the first mini-trial of two surviving leaders of the Khmer Rouge: Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan.
 
Nuon Chea was Pol Pot’s deputy, while Khieu Samphan was head of state of the regime that is believed responsible for the deaths of two million people between 1975 and 1979.
 
The court recently finished hearing evidence against the two, and is scheduled to hear closing arguments in mid-October.
 
But that date has already been pushed back once, and unless money is found soon for the Cambodian staff, it could well be delayed again.
 
With both men in their eighties - and with fellow defendant Ieng Sary, who was the Khmer Rouge’s foreign minister, dying during trial earlier this year - the risks of justice delayed are obvious enough.

You May Like

At Khmer Rouge Court, Long-Awaited Verdict Approaches

First phase of trial, which is coming to an end, has focused on forced exodus of Phnom Penh in 1975 - and now many are hopeful justice will be served More

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities More

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

Downing of Malaysian airliner, allegations of cross-border shelling move information war in war-torn country to a new level More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
July 31, 2014 8:13 PM
The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.

AppleAndroid