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US Still Reviewing Tribunal for Fairness

The US is carefully observing the Khmer Rouge tribunal but has not yet decided to fund it, an official said Thursday, following calls from a leading genocide expert for reform in the special courts.

Meanwhile, low funds and poor administration have caused less victim participation than observers had hoped.

Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia, said in a statement Thursday the tribunal needed "robust anti-corruption commitments, … a clear operating timeline" and greater participation from civil society before it should be considered eligible for funding.

"I think the US, who initiated the trial, should definitely consider to help directly, with some conditions attached, so as to strengthen and reform the current tribunal to make it run perfectly and effectively for the victims," Youk Chhang said Thursday. "I think the reservation in approving funding occurred because the tribunal has not shown an international standard and transparency."

US Embassy spokesman Jeff Daigle said Thursday the State Department was currently conducting a review of the tribunal's capabilities.

"There won't be any consideration on funding until that review is finished," he said. "And a big concern is that the UN and the Cambodian government will need to agree on some mechanism to address the administration problems that have come to light."

Human rights officials said Thursday poor administration and a lack of funds were contributing to low victim participation, one of the key mandates of the tribunal.

The courts have received more than 1,000 complaints, tribunal spokesman Reach Sambath said Thursday.

Observers say this number could be much higher.

"If there had been wide outreach and people understand their rights, they would have participated. Then the problem is the administration," said Hisham Mousar, who monitors the tribunal for the rights group Adhoc. "And also the donors have not donated money for the tribunal. That's why there are likely precautions and hesitation to move forward."