I write to express disappointment regarding the comments made by Mr Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia, in the article titled “Ieng Sary team seeks ECCC judge’s ouster” (The Phnom Penh Post, September 20). Mr Youk Chhang reportedly dismissed the Ieng Sary defence filing to disqualify the ECCC Presiding Trial Chamber Judge, Nil Nonn, as an attempt to “invite controversy”, adding that the problem of bribery and petty corruption at provincial courts was common knowledge in Cambodia. Mr Youk Chhang is quoted as saying “It’s publicly known”. The comments made by Mr Youk Chhang imply that there is corruption in Cambodian courts, and that this should simply be accepted.
The implications from these comments are shocking, especially in light of the Report of the United Nations Human Rights Envoy, Surya Subedi, which only this weekend branded the Cambodian judiciary as corrupt, incompetent and lacking independence. Mr Youk Chhang’s comments are all the more disappointing in light of his position as the director of DC-Cam, an NGO purportedly established to find the truth regarding the Khmer Rouge period. The ECCC presents an opportunity not only for Cambodia to find out the truth about the Khmer Rouge period, but also to act as a model court contributing to the rule of law in Cambodia. Mr Youk Chhang’s comments promote neither opportunity, but rather accept corruption as a given in the Cambodian judiciary. If Mr Youk Chhang is so blasé in accepting a potentially corrupt judiciary at the ECCC, perhaps he should look at his own position as director of DC-Cam, and whether he is promoting the aim of his organisation.
Michael G Karnavas
Co-lawyers for Ieng Sary
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