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Tribunal Crisis Deepens as UN Judges Nix April Meeting

The UN-assisted Khmer Rouge tribunal suffered another vexing setback Tuesday, as foreign judges announced they would not meet with their Cambodian counterparts at the end of April.

The UN-appointed judges said they had no choice as the Cambodian Bar Association refuses to relax its position on excessive fees for foreign lawyer participation in the trials, according to a UN statement.

The announcement cast a darkening shadow over a tribunal established to try aging leaders of the defunct Khmer Rouge for genocide and war crimes.

Two weeks have passed since international judges asked the bar association to reconsider a position that called for foreign lawyers to pay a first-year fee of $4,900. The foreign judges have said the fee is excessive and damages a defendant's right to a fair trial.

"With the fee issue still unresolved and not enough time remaining to fix their schedules or accommodate previous commitments" the April 30 planning meeting was "no longer possible for the international judges," the statement said.

The April 30 session was meant to bridge continuing differences over internal rules, without which a tribunal cannot move forward.

Observers say a tribunal will implode if delays continue much longer.

The international judges stopped short of walking away from the tribunal, saying they hoped a resolution could be found with the tribunal's defense support section and the bar association.

"However, the international judges wish to emphasize that the window of opportunity is closing quickly, and they simply cannot allow for endless delays," the statement said.

The international judges will "re-examine the situation" at the end of April, and if no solution has come from the bar association, they will seek to work around the bar association, the statement said.