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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - UN gets special expert, Cambodia Doesn't

UN gets special expert, Cambodia Doesn't

UN gets special expert, Cambodia Doesn't


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David Tolbert will advise UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on developments at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal.

Special expert brings Yugoslavia experience

The United Nations has appointed American lawyer David Tolbert, former deputy prosecutor at the war crimes court for the former Yugoslavia, to be a “special expert” to advise the UN Secretary General about the financially troubled Extraordinary Court in the Chambers of Cambodia (ECCC).

The UN said in a statement the appointment was for “an initial three-month period” and that “the Secretary General considers this appointment essential during the forthcoming months leading up to the first trial.”

The court doesn’t have a firm trial schedule, but the trial of former Tuol Sleng prison chief Duch is expected to be in September or October, according to the attorneys.

The court’s international public affairs officer, Peter Foster, said Tolbert’s work “will be determined by the directions he receives from the UN Secretary General” and “is therefore not working for the court and is not a staff member of the court.”

By naming Tolbert, 51, as a “special expert” instead of  a “special advisor” on staff, the UN avoided a brouhaha with the Cambodian side of the court, which does not want a special advisor because the government doesn’t want to put anybody “above the court,” according to a public affairs official. And, if the UN had a special advisor the Cambodian side would probably have to have a matching one at 50 percent of the UN salary.

Tolbert’s post was announced at a meeting in New York attended by representatives of about 20 countries with top ECCC officials presenting findings that showed the court is functioning well, according to the ECCC’s chief public affairs officer Helen Jarvis.

The appointment comes as the court is trying to raise $114 million in new funding from its donors. The Cambodian side is still running out of money at the end of April.

Kao Kim Huorn, a secretary of state with the foreign ministry, told AFP earlier this year that the United States wanted an advisory role in the tribunal and would consider helping fund it if given the post.

US Embassy spokesman Jeff Daigle told the Post that the State Department is not currently seeking funding for the ECCC.

“Our understanding is that the Cambodian government is confident the ECCC will be able to attract adequate funding from other sources,” he said.

More investigation, not more arrests

Although some people were hoping for more arrests, prosecutors instead called for more investigation – specifically into claims of torture and killings at what was called a Khmer Rouge security center.

Prosecutors said in a statement that many Cambodians were unlawfully detained, subjected to inhumane conditions and forced labor, tortured and executed at the center. The statement said that if the factual allegations are founded, they could constitute crimes against humanity.

Prosecutors want the five leaders already in custody – Nuon Chea, Ieng Sary, Khieu Samphan, Ieng Thirith and Kaing Guek Eav – to be investigated for their involvement in the new claims.

The request was accompanied by about 1,500 pages of documents including witness statements.

Co-prosecutor Robert Petit told the Post that the prosecutors haven’t decided about more arrests. “It’s a good thing to keep momentum going, but you have to realize the limits of the process,” he said. “The co-investigating judges have five very significant investigations. That is going to take a long time.”

No problems

The UNDP says it will make an announcement April 5 about the results of a project team from Deloitte India and Cambodia that undertook a two-week review of human resources issues at the ECCC and found no problems.

The February review was a response to a critical audit last year that found overstaffing and inflated salaries, particularly on the Cambodian side of the court.

The new review found that the salaries were calculated correctly. ECCC says a copy of the full findings will be posted on its website on April 5.

Next hearings

Ieng Thirith will get a one-month postponement as requested by her lawyers for her first hearing to protest her detention. The hearing was rescheduled for May 21. Khieu Samphan’s pre trial detention hearing is still on for April 23.


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