PHNOM PENH — The UN-backed Khmer Rouge war crimes tribunal continues to encounter obstacles as it endeavours to conclude the trial of Khmer Rouge members. It is currently trying two former leaders Khieu Samphan, 82, and Nuon Chea, 87. But overdue wages have led staff to strike and caused the tribunal to come to a halt.
More than 200 court employees have gone on strike to demand wages which have not been paid since June. It is the latest in a number of issues to hamper the tribunal, which has previously suffered political interference and constant setbacks due to the health of its elderly defendants.
The tribunal has lost essential members to the strikes, including interpreters and translators, without whom the court is simply unable to function. Whilst the absence of wages poses significant problems for the court’s employees, the strikes have now raised concerns about the tribunal itself, as UN spokesperson Lars Olsen highlighted, ‘We are very concerned about the possible risk of disruption to judicial process through the strike.’
This interruption, if continued, could have serious implications on the tribunal and its outcome. Failure to successfully convict those responsible for the deaths of so many would be very disappointing for the millions of Cambodians who were affected by the actions of the Khmer Rouge. From 1975 to 1979, nearly two million people were killed; the families of whom this trial would only begin to compensate.
Annual budget cuts of $3 million are the likely explanation for the problem. The national component of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) will now need to ‘call on the Royal Government to meet its obligation to pay the national salaries so that the strike can be averted,’ explains Olsen.
The two men who are currently standing trial are former Head of State, Samphan, and Chief Ideologue, Chea. Both are accused of crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide, amongst other offences. A third man Leng Sary, a co-founding member of the organisation, died during the trial in March.
Image Courtesy: istolethetv, Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia | Wikimedia Commons