EU wants Cambodia to pay more for Khmer Rouge crimes court

Thu Feb 21, 2013 2:20am EST
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PHNOM PENH (Reuters) - The European Union is calling on Cambodia to come up with more cash for a Khmer Rouge war crimes tribunal, where resignations have slowed proceedings and some staff are threatening to strike after going for more than two months without pay.

Up to 2.2 million people died under the ultra-Maoist Khmer Rouge regime from 1975 to 1979, a quarter of the population. The tribunal, set up in 2005, has found only one person, a relatively lowly prison chief, guilty of crimes connected with the killings.

Under the agreement for the U.N.-backed tribunal, the United Nations was to pay for international staff and operations, while Cambodia paid for the national side, but the government has been repeatedly criticized for a lack of support.

"The EU keeps encouraging the Royal Government of Cambodia to continue substantially increasing its own contribution to the tribunal, as a sound measure to improve its sustainability and its ownership by Cambodia itself," EU Ambassador Jean-Francois Cautain said in an email to Reuters.

Pol Pot, the architect of the "Year Zero" revolution, died in 1998, but three of his closest comrades are now on trial for murder and crimes against humanity, among a litany of charges.

The funding difficulties have put a spotlight on the government's commitment to the process.

It has been accused of interfering behind the scenes to put the brakes on the court and limit the scope of investigations that could implicate powerful political figures.

Prime Minister Hun Sen, himself a former Khmer Rouge guerrilla who defected to the regime's eventual conquerors, Vietnam, has said he would not allow any new indictments and that he would be happy if the United Nations packed up and left.

Two international judges quit within six months in 2011 and 2012 complaining of political interference, and many Cambodians fear the defendants in the court's second case - "Brother Number Two" Nuon Chea, a former foreign minister, Ieng Sary, and ex-president Khieu Samphan - may not live to hear a verdict.   Continued...

Former Khmer Rouge S-21 prison chief Kaing Guek Eav (L), also known as Duch, stands in a dock as he testifies at the Court Room of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) on the outskirts of Phnom Penh March 20, 2012. REUTERS/Nhet Sokheng/ECCC/Handout