Court of Appeal Quietly Closed KR Tribunal Corruption Case

Defense lawyers for Brother Number Two Nuon Chea yesterday attempted to file new evidence with the Court of Appeal of widespread corruption at the Khmer Rouge tribunal, only to discover an investigation in the case had been quietly closed nearly two years ago.

In February 2009, the defense team appealed against an earlier municipal court decision to end an investigation into the corruption allegations. But Court of Appeal prosecutor Tan Senarong informed Nuon Chea’s lawyers yesterday that the court had closed the case in October that year, without giving notice to the complainants.

Mr Senarong said he could not ex­­plain why the case had been closed, but that Prosecutor Gen­eral Ouk Savuth, currently out of the country, would provide an ex­planation to Nuon Chea’s law­yers via e-mail.

“It’s disappointing,” said Mi­chiel Pestman, international co-lawyer for Nuon Chea. “This kind of corruption is a symptom of continuing govern­ment control of the legal process.”

The defense team’s new evidence came chiefly from US Embassy cables released last month by Wiki­Leaks. The team said the cables bolster claims that tribunal Director of Administration Sean Visoth was involved in “orchestrating a regime of organized corruption at the [tribunal],” a key allegation of the original criminal complaint. Mr Visoth has never formally been removed from his post, despite having been on leave since Decem­ber 2008.

Yesterday’s request to the Court of Appeal for investigation also named tribunal Deputy Director of Ad­ministration Knut Rosandhaug, who knows of five direct witnesses in the kickbacks allegations, according to a 2008 cable. Nuon Chea’s lawyers said they had not ruled out an appeal to the Supreme Court or action un­der the Anti-corruption Law, as they claimed to have evidence the kickbacks were still oc­curring.

Court spokesman Lars Olsen yesterday declined to comment on the substance of the WikiLeaks cables, and noted that the tribunal now has an independent counselor to receive and investigate graft complaints from staff.

“Anyone who has evidence of kickbacks should submit it to the independent counselor,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Khy Sovuthy)



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