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New graft monitor appointed

The announcement Wednesday that the Cambodian government and the UN had agreed to appoint Uth Chhorn, the current chairman of the National Audit Authority, to fill the newly created role of "independent counsellor" prompted some questions from court parties and observers, in particular whether Uth Chhorn would be granted enough authority to resolve the corruption complaints he will be tasked with fielding and whether Cambodian staffers would be comfortable bringing such complaints to him.

At a press conference on Wednesday that was light on details, Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said he did not know how Uth Chhorn might go about resolving corruption complaints. He also said he did not know when Uth Chhorn would begin work in the new role.

According to a statement distributed at the press conference and dated Tuesday, the agreement -- reached by Deputy Prime Minister Sok An and Peter Taksoe-Jensen, UN assistant secretary-general for legal affairs -- followed "detailed consultations" with donors. The UN has frozen funds to the Cambodian side of the court in response to allegations of a kickback scheme at the tribunal.

A statement issued by Japan and France voiced approval for the agreement on behalf of donors. "They believe this development can provide the credible and effective mechanism needed to further strengthen the administration of the Courts," the statement read. The position was created as part of an effort to ensure "full protection of staff on both sides of the [tribunal] against any possible retaliation for good faith reporting of wrongdoing", according to the statement from the UN and the Cambodian government. "In this context, the Independent Counsellor will be available to all staff to bring forward any concerns confidentially, and will be empowered to address such concerns."

Also this week, Andrew Ianuzzi, a legal consultant for the defence team of former Khmer Rouge leader Nuon Chea, met with Appeal Court Deputy Prosecutor Hang Sitha about a criminal complaint that accused officials of involvement in the alleged kickback scheme. The original complaint was filed in January, but the Municipal Court ended its investigation in February, and there have been only two meetings pertaining to the appeal. Following the 90-minute meeting, Ianuzzi said Hang Sitha had not demonstrated strong familiarity with the case file.

(Post by Robbie Corey-Boulet.)

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