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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Graft could taint trials at the KRT: defense lawyers

Graft could taint trials at the KRT: defense lawyers

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Nuon Chea's defence team requests details of graft claims, saying their client's right to fair trial may be in jeopardy

AFP

Nuon Chea in court for a bail hearing in March this year.

NUON Chea's defence team at the Khmer Rouge tribunal has demanded the disclosure of any details of court corruption allegations, saying that a graft scandal could threaten their defendant's right to a fair trial.

"We note the recent and well-publicised allegations of corruption at the ECCC and the fact that the Cambodian government has now received the United Nations assessment of the matter," the lawyers, Son Arun, Michiel Pestman and Victor Koppe, wrote in a September 19 letter to court administrators.

"Without speculating as to the veracity of the allegations, we simply wish to raise a general issue: Corruption within the tribunal may adversely affect the accused persons' right to a fair trial," the lawyers said.

The letter, a copy of which was obtained by the Post Wednesday, was addressed to ECCC administration director Sean Visoth and deputy director Knut Rosandhaug.

Even judges concerned

It cited a statement made in August by tribunal Judge Sylvia Cartwright, saying she spoke on behalf of all the judges when she said corruption was a "major issue" at the court.

"Because we have not been informed of either the extent of the allegations or the existence and/or appropriateness of the tribunal's official response to them, we are unable to properly assess the gravity of the situation from the perspective of our client's fair-trial rights," the lawyers said.

The letter also requests details of the efforts made by the UN secretary general's special representative, David Tolbert, to address the issue of corruption and "any resulting or intended ECCC remedial action" towards the issue of graft.

"We regard such information as important to ensuring the essential preconditions of a fair trial," the lawyers said.

Court spokeswoman and newly appointed ethics monitor Helen Jarvis declined to comment on the letter, but said "the amount of time the media has spent on this issue [of corruption] as opposed to the progression of the court is getting out of proportion".

She also said that she believed the letter had not yet been received by its intended recipients.

Allegations that Cambodian staff were kicking back a portion of their salary to their bosses were reviewed by a UN oversight body in New York. Court officials have yet to comment on the results, despite a government statement saying that they have seen the review.

A circular sent in August by Deputy Prime Minister Sok An indicated future graft complaints will remain confidential until reviewed by a government-led task force.

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