The official tasked with investigating corruption complaints at the Khmer Rouge tribunal has said that the first report conducted by his office will not be made public, contrary to earlier claims.
Uth Chhorn, the head of the National Audit Authority who was appointed Independent Counsellor for the tribunal last year, said in June that he expected a report of his office’s investigations to be made public by the following month. On Wednesday however, he said there were no longer plans for such disclosure.
“Both sides, the government and the United Nations, agreed not to release the report to the public,” Uth Chhorn said. “I don’t know the reason.”
Uth Chhorn said his report had been completed and forwarded to both the government and the UN “a few months ago”.
Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said that he had no information on the issue.
The UN Office of Legal Affairs in New York had not responded to a request for comment as of press time.
The UN-backed tribunal first faced corruption allegations in 2006, when Cambodian staff members said they had been forced to pay portions of their salaries to their superiors.
A November 2008 report by a German parliamentary delegation quoted Knut Rosandhaug, the court’s deputy director of administration, as saying that corruption was “a serious problem ... which impedes on the work of the hybrid court”.
In a report issued this past July, however, the Open Society Justice Initiative said the tribunal had taken “significant steps to address the corruption problem”.
In March, United States Ambassador at Large for War Crimes Stephen Rapp announced a US$5 million donation to the tribunal that he said had come following the American assessment that “credible steps” had been taken to address the issue of corruption.
The office of the Independent Counsellor was established in August of last year in part to satisfy donor demands that an effective mechanism to combat corruption be put in place.
Under the agreement beween the UN and the government that established the position, there is no obligation listed for the independent counsellor’s office to publicise its work.
The agreement calls only for the independent counsellor to “carry out his or her responsibilities strictly confidentially” and “to inform the Deputy Prime Minister ... and the Assistant Secretary-General for Legal Affairs of the United Nations at Headquarters in the event of any concerns which he or she deems appropriate to raise at that level”.
Cambodia Justice Initiative project officer Long Panhavuth said, however, that the office had an obligation to work transparently.
“The report with regard to the whistleblowers should be confidential, but when it comes to the report of the activity of the independent counsellor, it should be made public,” Long Panhavuth said.
“Otherwise, how can the public view whether the independent counsellor is functioning or is just a dead body?”