Breakthrough in Defense Lawyer Bar Fees Negotiations
Cambodia lowers fees for foreign Khmer Rouge genocide tribunal lawyers
By SOPHENG CHEANG
Associated Press Writer
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) _ The Cambodian Bar Association has decided to substantially lower legal fees for foreign lawyers wanting to take part in the much-delayed Khmer Rouge genocide trials, the association's spokesman said Saturday.
The association denied that its decision was a response to anger over initial fees, which were more than five times higher and had raised concerns that expense would limit defendants' and witnesses' choice of attorneys.
"The decision to lower the fees reflects the true willingness of the Cambodian Bar Association to allow the process of the tribunal to move forward as quickly as possible," Nou Tharith, a bar association spokesman, said at a news conference.
Nou Tharith said any foreign lawyers wanting to represent clients at the trials will now be required to pay only a flat, one-time fee of US$500 (euro367).
The amount is a significant reduction from the combined US$2,700 (euro1,980) the association had originally demanded. The initial sum included a US$500 (euro367) membership application fee, an additional US$2,000 (euro1,500) fee once a case was assigned and a US$200 (euro150) monthly fee.
Peter Foster, the U.N.-appointed spokesman for the tribunal, said the bar's announcement "seems like a very positive development."
Foster was still waiting for details of the decision to inform the foreign judges, who may respond with a formal statement Monday.
Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia, an independent group documenting the Khmer Rouge crimes, said, "It's good that this decision has been made so that there will be no more delay."
The dispute over lawyer fees was the latest obstacle for the U.N.-backed effort to try the Khmer Rouge's few surviving leaders on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity. About 1.7 million people died during the regime's 1975-79 rule.
The tribunal's foreign judges had demanded that the Bar Association reconsider its high fees, which they said would severely limit the right of the accused and witnesses to have lawyers of their choice.
On Saturday, Nou Tharith said the latest decision "will break the stalemate created" by the foreign judges.