At the outset of the dispute over Case 003 – and by extension Case 004 – allegations were made that the ECCC-dedicated personnel of the United Nations Headquarters may have made a deal with the Cambodian government to make Case 002 the last case of the ECCC and put the kaibosh on the rest.
The article below quotes the UN HQ as stating that it had nothing to do with the alleged design (provided there is a design in place). While there appears to be no reason to believe that the UN HQ is not telling the truth, it would be difficult to imagine that the UN HQ would have admitted to a behind-the-scenes deal like this for fear of accusations of interference with the administration of justice (which has all sorts of implications for fair trials and most important for the reputation of the UN as a promoter of the rule of law).
Whatever is the verity of the UN HQ statement, a seasoned observer would not help but notice that administrators have attempted to put this court on a well-defined schedule before (often to the amusement of the substantive people): prior to and at the beginning of the process the administrators authoritatively stated that the process would go on for 3 years and not a day longer. This was declared from the highest rostrums of this tribunal. Look how that worked out with the tribunal being in the 6th year of its operation (many have tried to play a numbers game here but there isn’t one to be played – the ECCC started spending money in February 2006 and there just isn’t two ways about it) and counting.
On the other hand, there are two issues the UN needs to reckon with: (1) the UN no longer has sovereignty over Cambodia (that ended in 1993) and the Cambodian government clearly does not want Cases 003 and 004 to go ahead (the Prime Minister made a statement to this effect which to my knowledge was never retracted) and (3) the judicial independence regarding the length of international proceedings isn’t the same thing as judicial independence regarding domestic proceedings (there is a tremendous cost to the international ones, particularly by comparison: an ordinary Cambodian judge makes $500 a month and his/her ECCC national counterpart pulls in $5,000 +; plus, Cambodia has no government-funded legal aid system which means the government pays zero for lawyers in ordinary proceedings like the ECCC has expended millions on the same). Now, considering the above, what is the UN HQ to do to extricate itself from this conundrum in the environment where the Cambodian government wants these proceedings closed, the donors are reluctant to continue footing the spiraling bill of the Court and “the most responsible” clause of the personal jurisdiction of the Court being elastic enough to allow prosecutions till the end of the natural life of the persons involved in Democratic Kampuchea? It is to make a deal and shut down the process after the largest case (Case 002) is over. Can the existence of this deal – or understanding -- be revealed to the public? No, for obvious reasons as none of the above will satisfy the ardent observers of the Court. The UN HQ did the only thing it could do: it made a statement disassociating itself from the dispute over Cases 003 and 004 and shifted the heat back on to the Co-Investigating Judges. The UN can’t legally shut down the proceedings or make a legal deal to this effect but the CIJs can.