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Bar's Position Enough to Sink Tribunal, Judge Tells VOA

A French tribunal judge told VOA Khmer Monday that international jurists remain prepared to walk away from a trial of former Khmer Rouge leaders if the Cambodian Bar Association does not relinquish its position on foreign lawyers.

The bar's position to charge high fees to foreign lawyers was enough to collapse tribunal negotiations, as a meeting of both sides scheduled for the end of April would be meaningless without a concession, Marcel Lemonde, a French judge for the tribunal said.

"Since the problem is not being solved now so that the plenary session can go forward and be useful, we are going to be in a stalled situation," Lemonde said.

Cambodian and UN-appointed judges and prosecutors last week came away from two weeks of talks over rules to govern the tribunal without declaring total success, and observers say if all problems aren't solved soon, the tribunal cannot be conducted within its three-year time limit.

The deadlock over foreign lawyers was just another sign that political will for a tribunal was lacking, Sara Colm, a senior researcher for Human Rights Watch, told the Cambodia Daily Wednesday.

"Making concessions on some issues while sticking to untenable positions on other key points is a strategy we've seen in the past," she said. "It's a way to give the illusion of progress when in fact there's no clear political will to make this tribunal happen in a way that will bring real justice to the victims."

The Cambodian Bar Association wants fees from lawyers that are so high as to prevent fair representation for the accused, making trials sub-standard, observers say.

Tribunal spokesman Reach Sambath said it was not the responsibility of the tribunal to decide this matter.

Cambodian Bar Association President Ky Tech declined to comment Wednesday but has said in the past the bar could not compromise.

"We are trying to resolve the situation as best we can," Rupert Skilbeck, the principal defender for the tribunal, said. "We are very confident we can resolve this."