Seeking Justice on the Cheap: Is the East Timor Tribunal Really a Model for the Future?


David Cohen

AsiaPacific Issues, No. 61


Honolulu: East-West Center

Publication Date: August 2002
Binding: paper
Pages: 8
Free Download: PDF


Over the past eight years the UN Security Council has paid some $1.6 billion dollars to operate International Criminal Tribunals in Yugoslavia and Rwanda. Successfully pressured to establish a tribunal in East Timor, the Council sought to cut its costs by creating a new form of tribunal—a “hybrid” tribunal with both international and domestic judges and partially funded and staffed by the national government. Today, though the hybrid tribunal is lauded by the United Nations as a model, the East Timor Tribunal is anything but. Of its meager $6.3 million budget for 2002, $6 million went to the prosecution, which nevertheless has failed to take any high-level perpetrators into custody. The balance was almost all for international judges’ salaries, who sorely lack adequate administrative and clerical support. Though some steps have now been taken to improve the training of defense counsel, the Public Defender’s unit is so under-funded and inexperienced that it did not call a single witness in any of its first 14 trials. Whether a minimally credible tribunal is better than none at all is the real issue the United Nations has not openly addressed.


The views expressed in this publication are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Center.