Bowing to mounting international pressure, the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia and the UN Development Program have publicly announced steps they are taking to ensure that Cambodian personnel at the tribunal are recruited in a transparent and effective manner.
In a joint statement issued late Tuesday, the ECCC, the UN, and UNDP, which oversees some $6.3 million in funds for the Cambodian side of the court, said that new recruitment procedures have been formalized, assessments of current employees will be conducted by the end of the year, and a mandatory code of conduct will soon be developed.
That mandatory code of conduct, they wrote, would prohibit, among other things, “ECCC staff from receiving or soliciting payments other than salaries for the performance of official duties.”
The reference to “soliciting payments” would appear to be the closest acknowledgement to date that the court is aware of and ready to address the allegations of kickbacks for jobs the Open Society Justice Initiative, a US-based court monitoring group, first publicized in February.
The public nod to reform comes amid two scathing editorials in the influential Asian Wall Street Journal, which Tuesday referred to a “scandal” in mismanaged funds at the ECCC, and comes amid plans to launch a major fundraising campaign to keep the court afloat.
In addition to making up shortfalls in its current $56.3 million budget, the court needs money to support a planned victims unit, bolster witness protection, and create a resident judge position to improve judicial leadership, among other things.
UNDP spokesman Men Kimseng said Tuesday that Douglas Gardner, UNDP’s resident representative, was leaving town and unavailable to speak to a reporter.
ECCC public affairs chief Helen Jarvis reiterated Tuesday that the Cambodian side of the court had agreed to implement all the recommendations resulting from an audit the UNDP commissioned late last year in response to concerns over human resources management.
She said the planned skills assessments would be conducted by the court’s personnel section, in conjunction with an independent third-party appointed by the UNDP. Efforts are also underway, she said, to put Cambodian staffers, most of whom have 3- to 6-month contracts, on longer-term contracts.
International donors say they are watching the ECCC closely and have emphasized the importance of compliance with the UNDP reform program, but it remains to be seen how hard they will push for concrete signs of improvement before pledging additional funds.
With two Khmer Rouge suspects in detention and tens of millions already spent, walking out on the court’s long-delayed efforts to bring Cambodia some measure of justice is politically untenable, one diplomat said.
“That’s not an option anyone is in a position to contemplate, but people recognize these are serious problems and have not hesitated to say so,” he said on condition of anonymity.
Rafael Dochao-Moreno, charge d’affairs of the European Commission, which has contributed EURO 1 million [around $1.4 million at Monday’s exchange rate] to the UNDP trust fund and sits on the oversight board for those funds, said the EC has, from the start, been concerned about the transparency of hiring procedures on the Cambodian side of the court.
Dochao-Moreno, who said he had been orally briefed on the UNDP audit but had not received a copy, said he was confident the reforms now being made would bring the court in line with international practice.
The Embassies of Japan and France declined requests for interviews Tuesday and did not respond specifically to written questions.
Instead, in e-mailed statements both embassies reiterated their support for the work of the tribunal, and said that until an official funding request is received, it would be too early to speculate on future funding.
“We have the conviction that the Khmer Rouge Trials contribute to the promotion of the rule of law and good governance in Cambodia. Therefore, we expect that the process will continue to proceed properly and promptly,” wrote Kaori Yoshimatsu, third secretary at the Embassy of Japan, the tribunal’s largest donor.
Writing in French, Fabyene Mansencal, first secretary at the French Embassy, praised the court’s judicial progress as “an essential contribution to the reconstruction of the country and the development of the rule of law,” but added that “any new assistance shall necessarily have to accompany consideration of the functioning and direction of the structure.”
The US, which has not funded the tribunal, is currently evaluating whether the tribunal is capable of meeting so-called international standards of justice, a necessary prerequisite for direct funding, US Embassy spokesman Jeff Daigle said by e-mail Monday.