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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - KRT graft talks reopen

KRT graft talks reopen

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090223_02.jpg

UN officials arrive to discuss the creation of new monitoring mechanisms at the hybrid court, as funding pressures intensify.

Photo by: Tracey Shelton

Lawyers Francois Roux, Pierre-Olivier Sur and Kar Savuth outside the tribunal last Wednesday for the trial of S-21 prison chief Duch. 

TALKS over anti-corruption measures at the Khmer Rouge tribunal were to continue today between a top UN legal official and members of the Cambodian government, amid fears of bankruptcy on the Cambodian side of the court.

Peter Taksoe-Jensen, the UN's assistant secretary general for legal affairs, arrived  Sunday in Phnom Penh and was to meet with Deputy Prime Minister Sok An today to continue discussions over monitoring mechanisms at the hybrid court.

Patricia Georget of the Office of Legal Affairs, appointed to represent the UN in talks, would not comment on the meeting except to say that the meeting would "continue the agenda from discussions in December and agree on a way forward".

The talks are part of joint efforts to establish anti-corruption mechanisms at the court after allegations arose last July that staff members were kicking back part of their salary to their bosses. However, an independent review of these specific allegations by a UN oversight body is yet to be disclosed, and no investigation by the Cambodian side has so far been undertaken.

"Relating to the accusations that ECCC is corrupt, the Cambodian government and UN are working together to resolve and end this problem because the government does not tolerate either corruption nor the impunity of crimes committed during the Khmer Rouge regime," Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council Ministers, told the Post Sunday.  

"We will prosecute people found guilty of corruption and we will separate clearly the issue of corruption from the judgment of former Khmer Rouge leaders," he added.

Funding hurt by allegations

Observers say leaving the issue unsettled has jeopardised the credibility of the court and contributed to the ongoing financial troubles of the Cambodian side, which now expects funds to completely dry up by month's end.

"It is definitely my sense that the court's trouble raising funds is in part because these issues have not been adequately resolved," Heather Ryan of court monitor Open Society Justice Initiative said Sunday.

The possibility of widespread corruption has also led international lawyers defending the former Khmer Rouge's chief ideologue, Nuon Chea, to file a complaint to the municipal court over the allegations, citing the issue of a fair trial. The investigation was abruptly cancelled earlier this month and appealed Thursday.

"We call on the UN, as we do on the Cambodian government, to cooperate with any investigation going forward," Andrew Ianuzzi, legal consultant for Nuon Chea's defence team, told the Post, adding that the UN should also apply diplomatic force over the issue.  

"We hope the UN will put some pressure on the Cambodian government to cooperate with the general prosecutor [at the Court of Appeal] and make available the [review of allegations] as soon as possible," he said.

The court began its first trial, that of Tuol Sleng prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, last Tuesday, a historic moment for the court that has taken years of diplomatic haggling to get to its trial stage. 

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