Lawyers Denied Access to Court Graft Charges

Both the UN and Cambodian sides of the Khmer Rouge tribunal have rejected a request by defense lawyers for Brother No 2 Nuon Chea for information on recent corruption allegations, asserting either that such information is unavailable or is protected by UN convention.

Saying they feared possible corruption could endanger their cli­ent’s fair trial rights, the lawyers last month asked the court for information about alleged kickbacks allegations reported by several Cam­bodian court staff earlier this year.

The lawyers asked in particular for the findings of a review of the allegations which was recently completed by the UN’s Office of Internal Oversight Services in New York, which UN officials have kept closely guarded but which were shared with Cambodian officials early last month.

Lawyers and court observers have said that if payment of kickbacks is confined to non-judicial staff this need not compromise the fairness of the court but that it could be fatal to the court’s credibility if it ex­tended to judges and prosecutors.

In an Oct 20 written reply to the defense, the court’s Deputy Dir­ec­tor of Administration Knut Ros­and­haug said that under a 1946 convention, both the UN and its property are immune from all forms of legal process throughout the world but that the UN would be willing to share information with the defense if the Cambodian government agreed.

“The United Nations maintains its privileges and properties in re­spect of the requested documentation. Should the Royal Govern­ment of Cambodia agree to disclose such communications and report, however, the UN would not oppose it,” Rosandhaug wrote.

In a subsequent letter dated Fri­day, the court’s Director of Ad­ministration Sean Visoth did not address the defense request for the findings of the OIOS review, which have been shared with government and court officials.

However Sean Visoth said that, while Cambodia should have jurisdiction over the original complaints, these had not been shown to the Cambodian side of the court.

“Needless to say, I am unable to provide you with any clarification on the complaints that were apparently taken to New York […] for examination by the United Nations Office of Internal Oversight [Ser­vices], as neither I nor any other Cambodian official in the ECCC have been shown or provided de­tails as to their contents,” he wrote.

Both Rosandhaug and Sean Visoth reiterated recent anticorruption measures taken by the court, such as instituting reporting procedures and establishing a code of conduct.

“[T]he UN has announced to the Royal Government of Cambodia and to all ECCC staff that it will also receive any allegations of corrupt practices from national ECCC staff members,” Rosandhaug wrote.

“Such complaints will be reviewed, together with any supporting evidence, by the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services.”

The court’s Public Affairs Chief Helen Jarvis declined on Tuesday to comment beyond the contents of Sean Visoth’s letter.

Council of Ministers spokesman Pen Ngoeun said he was unfamiliar with the matter.

Nuon Chea’s Cambodian attorney Son Arun said Tuesday his team of lawyers was currently discussing whether to take any further action.

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