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Tribunal Alerts Staff to Money Shortfall

Khmer Rouge tribunal administrators held a meeting with Cambodian staff members Tuesday to warn them of a money shortfall at the end of April, a spokeswoman confirmed Wednesday.

More than 200 staff and officials of the ECCC, or Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, were present at the meeting, said Helen Jarvis, chief spokeswoman for the courts.

"Administration director Sean Visoth held a meeting with all the Cambodian staff yesterday," Jarvis told VOA Khmer. "Now we are very clear that the budget will run out by the end of April. So then, all the staff must be informed."

Jarvis said she was confident the tribunal would find funding from outside countries, which are considering a proposal and are waiting for clarifications. "We are not in a panic situation," she said. "We don't think that the ECCC will be closed."

Rupert Skilbeck, head of the tribunal defense section, said the tribunal needed to move forward to the trial stage for five jailed Khmer Rouge leaders "as quickly as possible."

"The ECCC is not allowed to keep people in custody if there is no prospect of trying them within a reasonable time," he said. "And so the concern is that if the process is in any way delayed by the financial and management questions of this court, then the rights of the accused may not be looked after properly."

Tribunal prosecutor Robert Petit, too, said he thought the courts would find a budget.

"If the Cambodian staff cannot or are unwilling to work, it is clear that we will not be able to continue," he said.

The Cambodian government pledged more than $13 million of the $56 million originally expected for the tribunal, and the shortfall for the original budget is about $8.1 million.

About $4.9 million of that should come from the Cambodian side, officials have said.

However, tribunal officials estimate they will need an additional $114 million to extend the trials through 2011.