Thursday, December 15, 2005

Tribunal Team To Spend 2006 Hiring, Training

THE CAMBODIA DAILY

Volume 33 Issue 28
Thursday, December 15, 2005

By LEE BERTHIAUME AND THET SAMBATH

The core UN Khmer Rouge tribunal team will return to Cambodia in February to take up residence with their Cambodian counterparts at the new RCAF headquarters in Kandal province, where work will continue to establish the Extraordinary Chambers to try surviving leaders of the Pol Pot regime.

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, government and UN officials said the next year will be spent filling positions, training judges and prosecutors and getting the chambers up and running so investigation and prosecution can begin.

However, officials from neither side could offer dates for when actual trials might begin.

Tribunal Coordinator Sean Visoth said a section of the RCAF headquarters, located in Kandal province’s Ang Snuol district on National Road 4, will be transferred to the task force by the end of January and the UN team, led by UN Deputy Coordinator Michelle Lee, will return in February.

Robert Sully, the UN team’s chief of general services, said the military headquarters had been inspected by Lee’s delegation and fits with the tribunal’s requirements, though a lot of work still needs to be done to get the facility ready.

"Over the following months, the teams will build up their [first year] full deployment of personnel, as the legal processes of prosecution and investigation get under way," Sean Visoth said at the Council of Ministers news conference.

Sean Visoth said he expected judges and prosecutors, both Cambodian and international, to be announced in the next few months.

"Now the UN has interviewed the judges and prosecutors so I hope early next year, they will announce their judges and at the same time, Cambodia will announce too," he said.

However, questions still abounded as to how the Cambodian government will cover its remaining $10.8 million share of the $56.3-million tribunal budget.

Sean Visoth said the government is committed to beginning the tribunal preparation process, but did not speculate on the process beyond that. "There might be, some delays," he said. "But we knew from the beginning there would be challenges. The point is, we are committed."

Lee said her team is investigating the possibility of using an estimated $6.9 million in leftover UN aid money that was deposited in trust funds for Cambodia by foreign countries in the early 1990s to help cover the shortfall.

However, she said the countries that contributed the money, including Japan, Denmark and Australia, would have to agree to release the funds to cover the government's shortfall, which isn't guaranteed. "It will still take some time," Lee said. "We don't want to say this is a confirmed option."

She said a meeting with foreign diplomats earlier in the day was not another appeal for money, though she again acknowledged the importance of securing the Cambodian government's share.

"If we are ready but [government officials] are not, then it will still be delayed," Lee said after the meeting.

Linda Ryan, the UN team's chief of budget and finances, said while there is some flexibility, the tribunal's budget outlines what the Cambodian funding pays for and what is the responsibility of the international community.

Lee acknowledged that the tribunal's fixed timeframe and budget could present challenges.

She said there is a chance the tribunal will go over budget, but she hopes to avoid that scenario.

"In any setup, the most expensive expense is human beings," Lee said. "I don't want any bodies that are idle. I know how tight the budget is."


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