Source AP ©

Cambodia lowers fees for foreign lawyers

The Cambodian Bar Association’s spokesman said Saturday that the Association decided to substantially lower legal fees for foreign lawyers wanting to take part in the much-delayed Khmer Rouge genocide trials.

The association denied 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 (EUR367).

The amount is a significant reduction from the combined US$2,700 (EUR1,980) the association had originally demanded. The initial sum included a US$500 (EUR367) membership application fee, an additional US$2,000 (EUR1,500) fee once a case was assigned and a US$200 (EUR150) monthly fee.

Peter Foster, the U.N.-appointed spokesman for the tribunal, said the bar's announcement "seems like a very positive development."

"I think everybody is very happy to hear that the bar has reached this decision," he said.

The U.N.-backed tribunal, led by Cambodian and international judges, was expected to begin trials this year.

But many feared the legal fee disputes could delay efforts to bring the Khmer Rouge's few surviving leaders to trial for genocide and crimes against humanity. About 1.7 million people during the regime's 1975-79 rule.

The tribunal's foreign judges had demanded that the Bar Association reconsider its high legal 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 of the Bar Association "will break the stalemate created" by the foreign judges.