UN secures loan to pay Khmer Rouge war crimes court staff in Phnom Penh

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 19 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 19 September, 2013, 11:36am

The United Nations said yesterday it had secured a loan to pay Cambodian employees at the Khmer Rouge war crimes court striking over unpaid wages.

The UN-backed tribunal's 250 local workers, including judges and prosecutors, have not been paid since June because of a cash shortage. Most of them have been on strike since September 1.

UN spokesman Lars Olsen said it had successfully worked with major donors to secure their authorisation to make a further loan to the Cambodian side of the court for "the payment of arrears of national salaries".

Olsen said the loan to the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) was being made on a strictly reimbursable basis. "We hope the national staff of the ECCC will now be able to return to work on this basis," he said. The UN also called on Cambodia to "meet its obligation" to pay the salaries.

"Any further strikes could risk delaying the judicial proceedings and jeopardise the court's ability to function," Olsen added.

Neth Pheaktra, a Cambodian spokesman at the tribunal, said the striking staff were expected to return to work today.

The hybrid court has been frequently short of cash since it was set up in 2006 to seek justice for the deaths of up to two million people under the Khmer Rouge regime in the late 1970s.

The UN pays for the international workers while the salaries of local staff are paid by the Cambodian government, with both sides relying on donors.

Two defendants - "Brother Number Two" Nuon Chea, 87, and former head of state Khieu Samphan, 82 - are on trial for war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity. The court is now in recess. Closing statements in the first part of the trial will be heard next month.