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UN urges international community to fund Khmer Rouge tribunal

A senior UN official on Thursday urged [UN statement] international donors to provide financial support to Cambodia's UN-backed Khmer Rouge tribunal, the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) [official website], in order to allow it to continue ongoing trials. The ECCC, a hybrid court established in 2001 to try those accused of the Khmer Rouge regime's worst crimes, is funded by voluntary donations [UN News Centre report]. These donations, however, have reportedly decreased in recent years, with available financing falling below the court's cost of operation. UN Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson [official profile] acknowledged donors' current financial constraints but emphasized the importance of continued ECCC prosecution and progress made toward a more cost-effective and streamlined ECCC budget. Eliasson stated that the impact of trial stoppages resulting from financial constraints, both in the past and anticipated, is "self-evident" given the court's role in adjudicating international crimes of the "utmost gravity." He went on to say that without raising the funds necessary for the tribunal's operation they would be letting down the millions of Cambodians affected by the Khmer Rouge regime. Eliasson called on both donors and the Cambodian government to provide the ECCC with consistent levels of support.

The Khmer Rouge [JURIST news archive], the ruling party in Cambodia from 1975 to 1979, is believed to be responsible for the deaths of more than 1.7 million people, who perished from starvation, disease, overwork and execution. The movement aimed to create an "agrarian utopia" [BBC backgrounder], seeking to abolish money, private property and religion. In June 2011 the tribunal began hearings [JURIST report] for four of the regime's former leaders. Nuon Chea, the group's chief ideologist and second in command, and former head of state Khieu Camphan [ECCC profiles] have been charged with war crimes and are currently being prosecuted by the tribunal. Ieng Thirith and Ieng Sary were also arrested and charged in 2007, but Sary died while on trial and Thirith has been released [JURIST reports] after being declared unfit to stand trial. The present call for financial contributions echoes [JURIST report] one made in September, in which a UN spokesperson said that the ECCC still lacked $1.8 million to fund operations from September through the end of the year.

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