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UN expert aiming for low profile

The UN’s special expert to the Khmer Rouge Tribunal arrived here April 27 with little fanfare, an ECCC official said, adding that he hoped the seasoned troubleshooter’s appointment would boost donor confidence in the court following allegations of mismanagement.

David Tolbert will review the UN’s operations at the joint tribunal to “come up with ideas and suggestions” for better management of the massive bureaucracy that has sprung up around efforts to try former Khmer Rouge leaders, said Peter Foster, spokesman for the UN Assistance to the Khmer Rouge Tribunal.

His mission, which will also include working to secure an additional $114 million requested by the court, is being kept “as low key as possible,” Foster told the Post on May 1.

“We hope many [donors] will be reassured by his appointment,” said Foster.

“The fact that the UN has made an appointment at this level, and that he reports directly to the Secretary General, shows our commitment to making this as efficient and effective as possible.”

More funding has become crucial to the tribunal and Tolbert’s role will be to “work with donor states to help them understand and review the budget,” Foster said.

Thun Saray, president of rights group Adhoc, which is monitoring the tribunal, said donors expect Tolbert will have an impact on the court’s long-running problems with transparency.

“I hope the court process will be more transparent and more clean than before,” he said.

A group of civil society leaders – including Thun Saray – sent a welcome letter to Tolbert on April 28 highlighting the areas they want him to address.

The group cited as major concerns what it considers to be the court’s lack of robust outreach schemes, inadequate commitment to transparency and an under-resourced Victim Unit, as well as the court’s leadership vacuum. (Cat Barton)

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