Editor’s note: International donors recently nearly $17 million to extend the operations of the Khmer Rouge tribunal through the rest of the year. That money falls well short of the $85 million requested by tribunal officials for 2010 and 2011, and it comes as the Cambodian side of the UN-backed court faces dire financial straights. Heather Ryan, a tribunal monitor for the Open Society Justice Initiative, discussed the court’s current situation with VOA Khmer by phone.
Based on your understanding, why did the donors offer so little money for the tribunal?
It is difficult to know what impacts the decisions of donors. Changing political or financial situations of some donor states may have affected their contributions. It is important to remember that a single donor conference does not represent what donors will give throughout the year. Additional states may well make pledges to the court later in the year, and some donors may make additional contributions.
The most important factor for the court in raising needed funds is to demonstrate that it is operating effectively and efficiently and meeting the goals it was set up to accomplish. In that regard the court must strive to demonstrate that it is operating independently and that its work is accessible the people of Cambodia.
Some observers say further cases beyond the two the tribunal is currently dealing with would provide a greater sense of justice for Cambodians, especially because the currently detained leaders have remained silent. What do you think?
It is important that the court begin active investigation of cases 003 and 004 if it is to demonstrate that it is operating efficiently and independently. Cases 003 and 004 may well be important to giving Cambodians a fuller understanding of what happened during the Khmer Rouge period, as they may involve accused persons who are "most responsible" for atrocities but who operated at a different level than the senior leaders in Case 002. The international prosecutor obviously believed they were important and serious cases when he submitted them for formal investigation. The investigating judges now have a responsibility to fully process the cases and follow the evidence to determine if arrests and formal charges are appropriate.
There has been a delay in getting in a UN legal expert for the tribunal. What are the consequences of this delay?
The delay in the appointment of a UN legal expert is troubling for several reasons. Such an expert is needed immediately to assist in raising essential funds for the court, deal with questions about political interference with the prosecutorial and judicial processes, and to ensure that the court moves forward at an acceptable pace. Each is a pressing problem and the longer the UN delays in effectively dealing with them, the more difficult they will be to solve.
How will that affect victims, especially civil party applications for the court, if the court limits the scope of its investigation?
The broader the investigations done by the court, the greater the opportunities for victims to participate as civil parties and to understand the details of what happened during the Khmer Rouge period in all parts of Cambodia. An investigation in cases 003 and 004 will likely broaden the scope of the court’s overall investigation of Khmer Rouge crimes and provide more meaningful information and justice to victims.
Kaing Kek Iev, or Duch, is expected to hear a verdict in his trial on July 26. What would a reasonable sentence be according to international standards or other courts, considering many victims want him to serve a life sentence?
If the trial judges find Duch guilty of crimes, they have wide discretion in deciding on a sentence. They can assess a sentence of between five years and life in prison under the [tribunal] law. The judges will have to consider many factors, including the gravity of the crimes, the nature of any remorse of Duch and the fact that he was illegally held in detention for many years, in deciding on an appropriate sentence. They will likely explain the reasoning for the sentence they decide on in the final judgment. Other international tribunals have typically given the most severe sentences to the highest-level perpetrators and slightly shorter sentences to lower-level perpetrators. The goal of the judges is to find a sentence that seems just under all the circumstances of the case.
Victims are also looking for compensation. What kind of compensation would be fair? And has the tribunal done enough to seek compensation?
The rules of the [tribunal] are very restrictive on what reparations civil parties can seek. Victims who are civil parties are not entitled to financial compensation from the accused person or from the court. The court’s rules only allow it to award “collective and moral reparations” in the Duch case. Examples of such reparations in the rules of the court include an order to the accused to, one, publish the judgment in a newspaper; and, two, fund a non-profit activity that benefits victims.