Sat, Dec 20, 2003 - Page 5 News List

Australia first to pledge funding for Khmer Rouge trials

EXPENSIVE JUSTICE The UN has asked for international funding for the long-awaited human rights trials of former `reign of terror' leaders


Australia became the first country on Friday to pledge funding for the long-awaited Khmer Rouge genocide trial, saying it had earmarked US$1.1 million for the joint Cambodian-international courts.

No leader of Pol Pot's ultra-Maoist regime, whose four-year reign of terror in the 1970s claimed an estimated 1.7 million lives, has faced credible justice for the "Killing Fields" genocide, one of the 20th century's darkest chapters.


But after nearly six years of tortuous talks, the UN and Cambodia reached an agreement in March to try the regime's ailing leaders. Pol Pot himself died in a remote jungle hideout in 1998.

Cambodia's parliament, deadlocked for nearly five months after July's disputed general election, has yet to ratify the deal although both sides said last week they were confident the "extraordinary chambers" would be up and running next year.


UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan is due to ask member states in February for contributions towards the estimated US$19 million for the UN side of the court. Australia's justice minister, Chris Ellison, said Canberra was ready to pick up a small part of the bill.

Ellison told reporters in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh that he was also looking into the possibility of sending judges and prosecutors.

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Japan, Cambodia's top donor, is expected to provide most of the funding.

Ellison was in the Southeast Asian nation to sign a bilateral agreement to try to halt the trafficking of women and children, who are often exploited in the sex trade.

Canberra has lobbied particularly hard for establishment of a genocide court following the kidnapping and murder of Australian backpacker David Wilson by renegade Khmer Rouge guerrillas in 1994.

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