DONORS to Cambodia's cash-strapped Khmer Rouge tribunal should demand that graft allegations at the court be dealt with before the release of future funding, the legal watchdog Open Society Justice Initiative (OSJI) said Wednesday, calling the tribunal's struggle to control corruption "serious and potentially fatal" to its legitimacy.
"Donors should condition any future funding, as well as the release of existing pledges, on a meaningful resolution of longstanding concerns about perceived corruption at the [Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia]," the group said in its October report on the tribunal.
that Cambodian court staff were forced to kick back portions of their salaries to their bosses were sent to the UN's office of Internal Oversight Services in August. Their review was returned to the Cambodian government at the end of September but details have not been disclosed.
The allegations led the UN Development Program to freeze funds to the tribunal, which has repeatedly been threatened with bankruptcy.
While some additional money has been pledged in recent months, the court still faced a funding shortfall of nearly US$75 million to remain operational through 2010, OSJI said.
The group did hail recent efforts by the court to address corruption, such as the appointment of ethics monitors and a processs to address complaints. But it questioned the ability of tribunal officials to protect whistleblowers, saying that failure to protect complainants "puts the credibility of both the court and the UN in jeopardy".
Court spokesman Reach Sambath said Wednesday he was not worried about the report.
"People have the right to express themselves," he said.