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Tribunal says UN to unfreeze funds if graft allegations addressed

Tribunal says UN to unfreeze funds if graft allegations addressed

Near-bankrupt court claims it is in ‘discussions‘ with UNDP to lift funding freeze, in place since graft charges emerged last July.

THE Khmer Rouge tribunal says it is in discussions to try to unfreeze UN funds that were halted in the wake of corruption allegations last year, as the Cambodian side of the court struggles to keep financially afloat. 

"People are working on this issue ... it is being discussed," court spokesperson Reach Sambath told the Post Sunday, referring to the eight-month-old fund freeze by the UN Development Program, which has managed more than US$7 million in court funds since 2006.

Judges at the tribunal announced last week that the Cambodian side of the court would not have enough money to pay March salaries.

"We are optimistic," said Reach Sambath, adding that "this is nothing new" for the perpetually-insolvent tribunal.  

The UNDP said last week that it was continuing to discuss with donors the best way to resume funding the court. "Establishing stronger anticorruption mechanisms at the court and satisfactorily resolving the existing allegations of corruption are two steps that must first be addressed," Aimee Brown,  a UNDP communications officer, told the Post via email last week.

Since allegations were levelled last year, Japan is the only donor to contribute funds to the Cambodian side, with other donors expressing concerns over accountability to their own taxpayers.

At a judge's plenary last week, international judge Silvia Cartwright stressed the link between transparency at the court and donor willingness to contribute more funding.

"The Defence Support Section welcomes the statement by the international judges affirming their concern about unresolved allegations of corruption within the ECCC. This ... will be a comfort to all those who fear that the administration of justice within the ECCC may fall prey to political compromise," said DSS chief Richard Rogers in a statement Monday.

Kickback accusations were first publicised in February 2007, and the UNDP froze funding last July in response to graft allegations by Cambodian court staffers against senior officials.

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