WASHINGTON, DC - Michelle Lee, currently the chief of the Administrative Support
Services Division of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), will
become the coordinator of the UN assistance to the Khmer Rouge trials, effective
September 1, the UN spokesman's office told the Post last week.
Formal announcement of Lee's appointment is expected shortly.
Lee has been working in the UN system since 1974 and has been in her current post
since July, 2003. She previously worked in an administrative capacity with the UN
Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) in Bangkok.
She has done human resources work for the United Nations in Nairobi, worked on peacekeeping
operations in Sierra Leone, India and Pakistan, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. She also
worked for 12 years in human resources work at the UN headquarters in New York.
Lee, a longtime UN staffer with broad experience in administration, did not respond
to an attempt to reach her by email at the ICTR in Arusha, Tanzania.
Initial reaction to the impending announcement was positive.
Cambodia specialist Craig Etcheson said in an email that given Lee's most recent
post as chief of administration on another international court, "It's hard to
see how you could come closer."
Her human resources background would be valuable for managing court personnel, Etcheson
Benny Widyono, formerly the UN secretary general's representative in Cambodia, called
the appointment "good news."
"I have known Michelle for a number of years," Widyono, now a visiting
scholar at Cornell University, said by email, adding that she "did a great job"
"Her appointment, coming from the administrative ranks of the UN, rather than
the legal office, will send a strong message that the tribunal is essentially a Cambodian
tribunal with the UN only providing technical and financial assistance, which is
according to the agreement signed between the two parties," he said.
The Khmer Rouge tribunal, he said, "differs completely from the tribunals at
Arusha and The Hague or even in Sierra Leone, which is a mixed tribunal."
"Michelle's job is to administer the UN participation as a technical cooperation
project. Of course there will be international judges but otherwise the international
participation is purely technical in nature," Widyono said.
James A. Goldston, executive director of the Open Society Justice Initiative, who
was traveling, forwarded a comment through his office, saying the appointment "represents
an important step forward in the search for legal accountability for the most senior
surviving perpetrators of the Cambodian genocide."
"The effectiveness of the Extraordinary Chambers will depend in large part on
the quality and integrity of its judges, prosecutors and staff," Goldston said.
"We look forward to seeing constructive collaboration between Ms. Lee and her
Cambodian counterpart on issues that will be crucial to the success of the court,
including victim and witness protection; outreach; the transparency and efficiency
of the tribunal's financial accounting systems; and planning with respect to the
court's legacy and its local impact," he said.