We read with great interest yesterday's article by Douglas Gillison in The Cambodia Daily [February 26, 2009] on the report of the Human Rights and Humanitarian Aid Committee of the German Parliament's October 2008 visit to the ECCC and its meeting with UNAKRT Coordinator Knut Rosandhaug. ("UN Officer Cites Gov't Meddling in Tribunal: Panel") Surprisingly, the article omitted perhaps the most striking passage of the report. At page two of the story, the delegation is quoted as noting: "In addition, the United Nations has conducted an investigation of the head of administration of the ECCC, Sean Visoth." However, the final clause of that sentence was left out of the article. It reads (in translation): "and come to the conclusion that he was guilty of corruption" (emphasis added). To be clear, a full and fair reading of the quoted section of the report suggest that, not only was Sean Visoth investigated by the UN, but that he was found to have engaged in some manner of corrupt practice. (For those readers who wish to consult the original text, it is available in German at http://www.bundestag.de/ausschuesse/a17/reisen/ASEAN2008.pdf.)
Whether this is in fact the case is another matter, and tribunal co-prosecutor Robert Petit is correct to point out that "there was already some confusion about reported comments of the delegation during its visit". Of course, the only individual who can clarify the matter is Mr Rosandhaug himself. Given the confusion - and the obvious importance of the issue - the UNAKRT Coordinator should make an exception to his policy of "not mak[ing] comments on such documents". If he did not make the statements to the delegation, then he should say so. If he did, then he should explain why the ECCC appears to be protecting a corrupt Cambodian official under the pretense of "sick leave". In our view, either case calls for a strong public reply. At the very least, all tribunal employees have a right to know whether they are working for a corrupt institution, as some of them - quite rightly - may wish to consider resigning, especially the international judges.
Additionally, the report raises the question why, in the same month the UN invoked its privileges and immunities to withhold information regarding allegations of corruption from an ECCC defence team, Mr Rosandhaug appears to have freely provided some of that very information to visiting foreign legislators - without, as the Daily article suggests, impressing conditions of confidentiality on the delegation.
Whatever the explanation, it is refreshing to discover that at least one UN official is capable of discussing the corruption issue, however
inadvertently, with some measure of candor. We only hope the UN secretary general will be equally forthcoming in response to our team's latest request for information.
In recent months, it has become obvious to us that the Cambodian government is holding the UN hostage on a number of important issues related to the Khmer Rouge trials. And we sense that the judgment of some of those on the tribunal's international side has been clouded by an overzealous - though, no doubt, good-intentioned - desire to see Cambodia's dalliance with international justice succeed. But at what cost? At some stage, we hope, principles will win out over passions.
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