Cambodia trial in political deadlock

10 October 2005 by Anne-Laure Porée

Five months after the entry into force of the accord between the United Nations and the Cambodian government, there has been little sign of progress in setting up the extraordinary chambers to try former Khmer Rouge leaders. Michelle Lee, who was appointed by the secretary-general to coordinate legal assistance on 25 August, is still not in post. Kofi Annan is not set to assign international judges until the end of October. A growing number of observers are openly pessimistic about holding the trials 25 years after the fall of the Pol Pot regime.

Concerns have been raised over how the court is to be financed. In April, when donors pledged to pay 38.5m USD out of a three-year budget of 56.3m, Cambodia - which is supposed to contribute 13.3m from its own funds, but has never committed to doing so other than relying on bilateral agreements - launched an appeal for contributions. Japan suggested using a portion of its bilateral aid to Cambodia to fill the financial gap. In June, the Cambodian foreign affairs minister Hor Namhong was upbeat: "We hope that the trials of former Khmer Rouge leaders will take place as soon as possible. The issue of funding is no longer a problem."

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