Gov’t Not Seeking US Aid for ECCC: Embassy

The Cambodian government is not seeking US funding for the cash-strapped Khmer Rouge tribunal, US Embassy spokesman Jeff Daigle said Thursday.

“The State Department is not currently seeking funding for the ECCC,” Daigle said by e-mail, adding: “Our understanding is that the Cambodian government is confident that it can obtain adequate funding to allow the tribunal to continue its work from other sources.”

The US had yet to fund the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, which is slated to start running out of money in April, as the US Congress had blocked funding for the court pending State Department certification that it could meet “international standards.”

Daigle said that the State Department review had not been concluded.

Peter Foster, the tribunal’s UN Public Affairs Officer, said Thursday, however, that: “As far as the UN is concerned, we’d welcome funding from any donor, including the US.”

ECCC Public Affairs Chief Helen Jarvis was in New York on Thursday and could not be reached for comment.

Jarvis, the ECCC’s Director of Administration, Sean Visoth, and Finance Chief Thoung Socheat met with diplomats at the UN in New York on Thursday to discuss a $170 million budget request to keep the tribunal functioning through 2011.

The request for funding in New York comes as donors to the ECCC have been seeking reassurance that the tribunal has re­dressed administrative scandals that came to light last year.

Some donors have also pushed for stronger international leadership at the ECCC, and last week UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed David Tolbert as an expert adviser on ECCC issues to the UN, Foster said Thursday.

Tolbert, a US national, has worked for both the prosecutor and registrar at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. His mandate is to ad­vise the UN secretary-general on the “budget review and overall operations of UNAKRT,” Foster said.

Tolbert is on a three-month, renewable contract and will be based in New York, Foster said.

Foster added by e-mail that Tolbert’s appointment was “internal to the United Nations” and does not in any way modify existing agreements between Cambodia and the UN.

Despite calls from international staffers at the court and civil society groups for stronger UN leadership on both sides of the ECCC, the Cambodian government has resisted additional international oversight of the tribunal.

“Hopefully, his mandate from the UN is broad enough to enable him to address issues on the UN side of the court that will have a positive effect on court operations generally,” Heather Ryan, court monitor for the Open Society Justice Initiative, said of Tolbert’s assignment.

She added that to be effective, Tolbert would probably have to spend a substantial amount of time in Phnom Penh.

The ECCC also announced Thursday that results of a review of reforms at the tribunal initiated by the European Commission last year had found “no substantial shortcomings.”

“The review was able to show that a robust human resource system has been developed to effectively support the judicial process and to minimize the risk of questionable practices occurring in the future,” according to the ECCC statement.

The review concluded that the ECCC’s new personnel handbook, job matching exercise, and code of conduct have effectively combated questionable recruitment practices, and that Cambodian salaries, which auditors last year said were unacceptably high, are reasonable and do not need to be cut, according to the statement.

The full report will be made public April 4.

The two-week review, conducted in February by two consultants from Deloitte and Touche’s India office and a local consultant, did not address directly long-standing allegations of kickbacks for jobs at the court, though some donors had called for a thorough-going investigation.

“Will those who have called for an investigation be satisfied with good human resources standards?” one person close to the tribunal funding negotiations said on condition of anonymity. “That’s a question mark in the fundraising discussion,” he added.

Contacted by phone in New York on Thursday, Sean Visoth declined to speak with a reporter.

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