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EU gives 2 million euros for Khmer Rouge court

Phnom Penh — The European Union said Wednesday it was giving 2 million euros (3 million dollars) to Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge war crimes court, which is set to give judgment early next year in its first trial.

The money is for the cash-strapped Cambodian side of the hybrid local-international court, set up with help from the United Nations in 2006 to bring justice to victims of the hardline Communist regime.

"The European Union has been very active supporting this tribunal, which is bringing international justice to Cambodia," Rafael Dochao, charge d’affaires for the EU delegation in Phnom Penh, told reporters in the capital.

The 2 million euros is part of a 7.7-million-euro package supporting legal reform and governance in Cambodia, the EU said.

The EU previously donated 1 million euros in 2007 to cover the salaries of Cambodian judges, prosecutors and support staff. EU officials said it was not immediately clear which areas the latest donation would support.

Donors have hesitated to give funding to the Cambodian side of the court in the past after claims of political interference and a scandal in which local staff were allegedly forced to pay kickbacks for their jobs.

In March this year the court said it did not have enough money to pay its local staff.

Under the complicated agreements governing the tribunal, Cambodian and international staff have separate budgets funded via pledges from countries including Japan, France, Australia, Germany and the United States.

The court wrapped up arguments last week in the long-awaited trial of Duch, the former chief of the Khmer Rouge regime’s main torture centre, where up to 15,000 people were killed.

Pol Pot’s 1975-1979 Khmer Rouge regime killed up to two million people through starvation, overwork and torture as it attempted to forge a Communist utopia by emptying cities and turning the countryside into a vast labour camp.

The tribunal also plans to try four former regime leaders on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity some time in 2011. It is currently investigating whether to open cases against five additional suspects.