A senior United Nations expert is calling on the Government of Cambodia to pay its national staff and help end a strike at the UN-backed tribunal trying Khmer Rouge leaders accused of mass killings and other crimes in the south-east Asian country. “We are fully committed to ending the current funding crisis as soon as possible and providing the stable environment that will enable national staff to continue the critical work of the ECCC [Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia] and achieve accountability pursuant to its mandate,” UN Special Expert on UN Assistance to the Khmer Rouge Trials, David Scheffer, said in a statement.
More than 100 of the court’s local employees reportedly went on strike this week after not being paid for month.
The judicial process is now at a “critical stage”, Mr. Scheffer said, and this latest strike in Phnom Penh “may disrupt further critical work on Case 002 and the fulfilment of the ECCC’s mandate.
Case 002 concerns Nuon Chea, the former second-in-command of the Khmer Rouge, and Khieu Samphan, former head of State. The third co-defendant, Ieng Thirith, has since been released from prison.
Mr. Scheffer said top UN officials have had numerous discussions and meetings with Deputy Prime Minister Sok An and with officials of the major foreign donor Governments to avoid such a crises.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and his Chef de Cabinet Susana Malcorra have written to Governments to address the situation, Mr. Scheffer said, adding that there should be “no doubt of the enormous amount of attention and work that this crisis has commanded at the United Nations and in key foreign capitols”
Speaking at The Hague on 28 August, Mr. Ban warned that “the very survival of the Court is now in question.”
Mr. Scheffer said that he is “hopeful” of funding commitments from the Governments of Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore for Cambodia’s 2014 budget, adding that “one cannot argue for more efficiency or speedier trial proceedings at the ECCC and at the same time starve it of the necessary funding.”
The ECCC, established in 2003 under an agreement between the UN and Cambodia, is tasked with trying senior leaders and those most responsible for serious violations of Cambodian and international law committed during the Khmer Rouge rule. It is staffed by a mix of Cambodian and international employees and judges.