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UN and govt to protect tribunal

UN and govt to protect tribunal

THE UN and the Cambodian government have agreed to work separately to protect the Khmer Rouge tribunal against corruption, with the two bodies resolving Monday to strengthen "existing mechanisms".

Peter Taksoe-Jensen, the UN's assistant secretary general for legal affairs, met with Deputy Prime Minister Sok An for daylong talks over the issue, which has become more urgent as the Cambodian side of the court heads towards insolvency.

Working "parallel" to each other, both sides of the hybrid court agreed to "carry out their functions autonomously, ensure the confidentiality of any complaints received ... [and] meet regularly with the objective of strengthening the ECCC's entire administration", said a joint statement released Monday.

Taksoe-Jensen, who arrived in Phnom Penh Sunday, described the talks as a "breakthrough" over the issue of corruption, which has plagued the court since the middle of  last year.

"We have the basic elements for [an anticorruption] mechanism," he said. "We hope that it is noted by donor countries and has a positive effect on their willingness to come forward," he added.

KRT graft talks end

Sok An said he was glad the two sides of the court could come to a "good understanding" of each other that respected national sovereignty.

According to the join statement, the court will also ensure "full protection of staff on both sides of the ECCC against any possible retaliation for good faith reporting of wrongdoing".

It added that an "ethics monitor" would be appointed on the international side of the court  to match those on the national side.

Allegations still unresolved

Allegations that Cambodian staff members were kicking back part of their salaries to their bosses rocked the tribunal in July last year, resulting in the UN freezing millions of dollars in donor funds to the Cambodian side of the court.

The results of a review into the allegations by a UN body in New York were sent to the government in September, although these findings are yet to be made public.

Observers to the tribunal say the lingering possibility of corruption at the court and the government's reluctance to conduct a full and transparent investigation into allegations has left the court's credibility dented in the eyes of the court's international donors.  

The only country to donate to the Cambodian side of the court since allegations of corruption were made public last July is Japan.  

Court officials now believe that without financial assistance soon, the Cambodian side of the court will be bankrupt by the end of the month.

Graft could still taint trial   

Taksoe-Jensen is believed to have also met with an international lawyer representing former Khmer Rouge leader Nuon Chea, whose legal team claims the possibility of corruption could affect their client's right to a fair trial.

The foreign lawyers filed a complaint to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court over the allegations, but the investigation was abruptly cancelled earlier this month and appealed Thursday.

On Sunday, they called for the UN to hand over their review of allegations to prosecutors at the appeals court.

Andrew Ianuzzi, a legal consultant for the defence team, declined to comment on the results of the meeting.

The court began its first trial, that of Tuol Sleng prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, last Tuesday. It announced Monday that testimonies in this case will begin on March 30, with hearings expected to run until June. 

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