Lawyers for former Foreign Minister Ieng Sary became the second defense team to denounce the appointment of Helen Jarvis, the Khmer Rouge tribunal’s former chief spokeswoman, as head of the victims unit, which they said posed a conflict of interest.
Ms Jarvis, who again declined to comment on Thursday, was also strongly criticized this week by lawyers for Brother Number Two Nuon Chea, who said her political views made her unsuited to monitor the ethical behavior of court staff or act in favor of Khmer Rouge victims.
In a Thursday letter to UN administrator Knut Rosandhaug, lawyers Michael Karnavas and Ang Udom supported the claims made by the Nuon Chea defense team.
They also said that the victims unit’s work on behalf of alleged Khmer Rouge victims should be separated from public outreach, which is intended to represent the court as a whole but is now partially performed by the victims unit as well.
After three years as chief of public affairs, Ms Jarvis officially became head of the victims unit on Monday.
“We are firmly of the view that amalgamating the outreach activities of the court together with the interests of the victims unit creates an inescapable conflict of interest for Dr Jarvis through no fault of her own,” they wrote.
“[A]s head of the victims unit, Dr Jarvis will not have a duty to the court as a whole but instead will be required to advocate for the interests of civil parties,” they wrote. “Simply put, the role of head of the victims unit is fundamentally incompatible with simultaneously conducting outreach on behalf of the court.”
UN spokesman Lars Olsen said Thursday he had not seen the letter and could not comment. However, Public Affairs Chief Reach Sambath said the outreach conducted by the victims unit will only concern the work of that office.
“Most of the outreach activities will still be conducted by public affairs section. We want to clarify that the defense lawyer should not worry at all,” Mr Sambeth said.
“Public Affairs will play a neutral role to offer benefit to all sides of the court, including the defense support section.”