Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - UN appoints Rwanda trial official to lead KR tribunal cooperation

UN appoints Rwanda trial official to lead KR tribunal cooperation

UN appoints Rwanda trial official to lead KR tribunal cooperation

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

said.

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"

at ESCAP.

"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.

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