[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] reported [press release] on Thursday that the refusal by the government of Cambodia to pay staff at the Khmer Rouge tribunal, the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) [official website], is an attempt to undermine efforts to bring former Khmer Rouge leaders to justice. The agreement between the UN and the Cambodian government specifies that the UN is responsible for the salaries of foreign staff, while it is the Cambodian government’s duty [AP report] to pay employees from Cambodia. The government of Cambodia, however, has failed to pay employees for months, and the tribunal has received its funding [official website] entirely from voluntary contributions. Asia Director of HRW Brad Adams stated:
The government has demonstrated it has plenty of cash to pay a bloated army and buy elections, making its refusal to put money into the Khmer Rouge tribunal a symbol of its utter contempt for justice in Cambodia. Donors and the UN should insist that the Cambodian government stop pretending to be too poor to provide accountability to the millions of victims of the Khmer Rouge.
Approximately 100 tribunal staff members went on strike [JURIST report] Sunday to protest unpaid wages, while UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon [official website] urged [JURIST report] donors to provide financial support to keep the tribunal running. Tribunal employees reported to HRW that they are also bitter due to “government interference and corruption at the court.”
The Khmer Rouge [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] have been blamed for the deaths of more than 1.7 million people from starvation, disease, overwork and execution between 1975 and 1979. The ECCC was established in 2001 to investigate and try those responsible for the Cambodian genocide, which resulted in the deaths of approximately one-third of the Cambodian population. In June 2011 the ECCC began the trials of four former Khmer Rouge leaders [JURIST report]. Nuon Chea was arrested and charged in September 2007 and said that he was never in the position to order the deaths attributed to him but that he would cooperate with the tribunal [JURIST reports]. Ieng Thirith and Ieng Sary were also arrested and charged in September 2007, though Sary died while on trial, and Thirith has been released [JURIST reports]. In 2010, the ECCC handed down its first and only conviction [JURIST report] against Kaing Guek Eav [TrialWatch profile], better known as “Duch,” who was in charge of the notorious S-21 prison in Phnom Penh.