The United States Department of State has announced that it intends to work with Congress to provide $1.8 million to Cambodia's cash-strapped Khmer Rouge war crimes court. If approved, it would be the first U.S. donation to the U.N.-backed genocide tribunal aimed at trying regime leaders. The court faces a shortfall of $40 million. Foreign donors have been reluctant to provide additional funds due to the allegations of graft and corruption by the court.
U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack says the Cambodian tribunal has taken important steps to clean up corruption:
"While the court still has more to do, the ECCC [Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia] has made significant strides to overcome international concerns about corruption, mismanagement, and political influence, including adding a new international deputy administrator, strengthening management practices, and establishing procedures to deal with allegations of wrongdoing."
"Nonetheless," said Mr. McCormack, "the court must still take appropriate steps to address the current allegations and hold responsible those involved."
Much is at stake for the Cambodian people. The war crimes court is a means of long-delayed justice for those who suffered under the Khmer Rouge government. The regime was responsible for the deaths of more than 1,700,000 Cambodians from torture, executions, starvation, and forced labor between 1975 and 1979.
The United States strongly supports bringing to justice senior leaders responsible for the atrocities committed under the Communist Khmer Rouge regime.
Virtually all of Cambodia's 13 million people have relatives who perished under the Khmer Rouge. In order for the country to move forward, it is vital that Khmer Rouge leaders be held accountable for their crimes. Respect for the rule of law and the existence of institutions of justice are Cambodia's best defense against future abuses and a fitting memorial to those who lost their lives or loved ones to the Khmer Rouge.