UN Legal Counsel and Controller visit ECCC

Addressing to both international staff and their Cambodian counterparts at the Khmer Rouge tribunal on 28 January, visiting Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs Mr. Miguel de Serpa Soares assured that the United Nations is committed to support the tribunal to fight impunity for the Khmer Rouge crimes.

Under-Secretary-General Miguel de Serpa Soares (2nd from the right) and Assistant Secretary-General Maria Eugenia Casar (3rd from the right) during a ECCC town hall meeting on 28 January 2014.

USG de Serpa Soares, the UN Legal Counsel, led a six-member delegation to the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) to discuss pressing funding issues with stakeholders and held a townhall meeting for an open dialogue with both international and national staff members of the court.  “The ECCC carries out an extremely important task to deliver justice to Cambodians. It is my pleasure to meet all of you today to acknowledge your contribution to that end,” said Mr de Serpa Soares in his opening remarks in the townhall meeting.

Assistant Secretary-General and UN Controller Ms. Maria Eugenia Casar also spoke to the audience, explaining the current financial situation and the steps taken by the UN Secretary-General to ensure that ECCC is able to continue its crucial work without disruption due to financial constraints. She described that a pledging conference for the 2014-2015 budget last November in New York drew only a limited pledges from the donors and the Secretary-General had therefore requested the 5th Committee of the General Assembly to approve a subvention from the UN assessed funds in order to avoid interruptions in the proceedings. Ms. Casar said that with the support of the Cambodian government, she was hopeful that the subvention would be approved  by the General Assembly after the next meeting in the 5th Committee in March.

She also informed the town hall meeting that after having discussed the financial situation with the Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Sok,  the Cambodian government would provide $1.1 million for the salaries of the national staff for the period of the first quarter of this year while the Secretary-General’s Special Expert David Scheffer would devote his  maximum efforts, working together with representatives of the Cambodian government  to raise more funds national component of the court.

During the one-hour townhall meeting where hundreds of staff attended, a number of staff members raised concerns and asked questions about the financial issues, job security and staff welfare.

The delegation was sent by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon following his meeting with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen at late last year’s ASEAN summit In Brunei. During the three-day visit, the delegation met with Cambodian government officials, donor representatives and court officials, in addition to addressing to the staff at the townhall meeting.

The ECCC was established in 2006 to prosecute senior leaders and those most responsible for crimes committed during the Pol Pot regime in Cambodia. One accused has since been convicted, two others are currently on trial and two more cases against multiple suspects are under investigation. The UN deploys international judges and more than 100 support staff to the hybrid court through the UN Assistance to the Khmer Rouge Trials.

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