Funding, Graft Talks Acknowledged at ECCC

Cabinet Minister Sok An welcomed in a statement Saturday the latest cash donation to the Khmer Rouge tribunal and asserted that negotiations with the UN on establishing an anti-corruption mechanism at the court were continuing.

The minister was reacting to Japan’s announcement Thursday that it would donate $4.17 million more to the Cambodian side of the court, which will fund the national side through at least to the end of the year, and a subsequent statement from other donor countries urging the UN and government to conclude their stalled talks on anti-corruption reporting mechanisms at the court.

“I want to express my appreciation for this renewed expression of support and encouragement for the tribunal to continue proceeding in a fair, efficient and expeditious manner, and to overcome any hindrances to achieving this objective,” Mr Sok An wrote.

Japan’s donation is lifting the Cam­bodian side out of a financial crisis created, in part, by the freeze of UNDP-managed funds—a decision made last year following corruption allegations by Cambodian staff at the court. It also appears to relieve im­mediate pressure on the government to agree with UN terms in the negotiations on the anticorruption system.

In a statement issued Feb 23, the UN and government had an­nounced a breakthrough in negotiations, saying they agreed to set up parallel mechanisms with a monitoring officer on each side, Cambodian and international, of the court. The two sides, however, disagree on whether staff should be allowed complain to a monitor from the other side of the court: for their protection, the UN wants whistleblowers to be able to report to the monitor of their choice, while the government wants strictly separate mechanisms for Cambo­dians and internationals.

After talks failed in early April, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Legal Affairs Peter Taksoe-Jensen said he concluded negotiating and had left a proposal on the table for the Cam­bodian government. Mr Sok An, however, said in his statement that the parties “continue to meet” and that Cambodia still maintains its position on the monitoring process.

“We believe that we can develop an appropriate protocol providing full protection of the complainant against retaliation for good faith reporting, as well as ensuring the rights to due process and protection of those against whom complaints have been made,” the cabinet minister wrote.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said Mr Taksoe-Jensen had recently sent a letter regarding further talks, but that nothing had yet been scheduled.

“The way I was told Peter [Taksoe-Jensen] has proposed a few issues [on which] to be holding a meeting,” he said, referring to tribunal Public Affairs Chief Helen Jarvis for more details.

Ms Jarvis declined to comment on the content of the letter.

“It was not a letter to me, it was a letter to the deputy prime minister [Sok An],” she said.

Mr Taksoe-Jensen could not be reached Sunday, but UN spokesman Farhan Haq said in an e-mail on April 22 that Mr Taksoe-Jensen’s proposal at the end of talks was “the UN’s bottom line” on the corruption monitoring talks.

“There is nothing further to negotiate on that particular proposal, which we hope the Cambodian authorities will accept,” Mr Haq wrote.

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