News / Asia

Strike, Resignation Cast Doubts on Khmer Rouge Tribunal

FILE - 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.
FILE - 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.
TEXT SIZE - +
Sok KhemaraColin Lovett
A strike over unpaid wages and the resignation of the top international prosecutor are returning the spotlight to the troubles facing Cambodia's U.N.-backed Khmer Rouge tribunal. Many are wondering if the court will be able to finish trying those blamed for the country's genocide in the 1970s.

The Khmer Rouge regime is blamed for the deaths of nearly two million people during its four-year rule from 1975 to 1979.

At first, justice was delayed by Cambodia's nearly two decade-long civil war, which ended in the late 1990s.  When peace returned, it took until 2006 before the United Nations and the government in Phnom Penh were able to open a joint tribunal.

But the court has been plagued by funding problems, as well as allegations of mismanagement and political interference.

However, evidence for use at the trials has been overwhelming. Youk Chhang, the director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia, says he and his group have a mountain of documents detailing the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge and its leadership.

"So far I have collected over [a] million documents of evidence," he said. "I have maps of about 20,000 mass graves and each grave has over 1,000 bodies. I have maps of over 100 prisons, where each prison has between 10,000 to 15,000 prisoners who were killed and few survived. I have collected hundreds of thousands of photographs of victims of crimes of the leadership."

Despite the evidence, the court has handed down only one conviction in seven years, and the advanced age of the remaining defendants has cast doubt on the prospects of finishing the hearings while they are still alive or able to participate.

FILE - 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), Nov. 21, 2011.FILE - 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), Nov. 21, 2011.
x
FILE - 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), Nov. 21, 2011.
FILE - 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), Nov. 21, 2011.
Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan, both in their 80s, are the only senior Khmer Rouge leaders alive and considered fit to stand trial. They deny the charges against them. The group's leader, Pol Pot, died in 1998 and co-founder Leng Sary died earlier this year.

Former Khmer Rouge prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, better known as "Duch," was sentenced last year to life in prison for his role in killing more than 14,000 while running the Tuol Sleng torture and execution center in Phnom Penh.

Other cases involving younger, more junior members of the Khmer Rouge regime are still in the investigative stage and it is unclear if they will come to trial.

The problems with the court have led some observers to question whether there is enough political commitment to continue funding the court.

Open Society Justice Initiative executive director James Goldston says it would be a tragedy if the remaining cases are not completed.

“I think the work stoppages, which is what we are seeing at the court, are evidence of the extremity of the problem, and there is a need for donors and for the Cambodian government to face up to their responsibility, to finish what they started," Goldston said. "If ultimately funds are not secured to allow the existing Case 002 to be completed, or other cases which are in the investigation stage, to reach their judicial conclusion, that would be a profound failure."

This month, nearly 200 of the 250 staff members on the Cambodian side went on strike because of unpaid wages dating back to May.

Khmer Rouge researcher Peter Maguire, author of “Facing Death in Cambodia," says staff walkouts signal another failure for the beleaguered court.

“With two of the four defendants dead or out of commission, the [tribunal] has failed to do even half of the things the U.N. and their cheerleaders in the human rights industry promised," Maguire said. "Cambodia’s mixed tribunal will serve as a cautionary tale of how not to conduct a war crimes trial. The U.N. should shut up about further trials already; they need to finish trying the senile defendants and pack it up.”

The crisis has prompted U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to issue a statement saying "the very survival of the court is now in question," and "financial failure would be a tragedy for the people of Cambodia."

Youk Chhang says it is critical for the United Nations and Cambodia not to loose sight of the goal for the court.

"'I think it is important for the court to look at this mission as a mission for justice, a mission to bring about a process so that the people of Cambodia can use it as a foundation to move on," he said.

Even if the strike is ended and the court resumes its normal operations, its long term prospects will remain in question.   

This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Khmer service.

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