Shedding light on the recent reassignment of Karsten Herrel, the UN’s chief coordinator for the Khmer Rouge tribunal over the past year, an official at UN headquarters in New York wrote in e-mail on Tuesday that the move was simply a time-tabled reappointment.
“There is no mystery regarding Mr Herrel’s new assignment. United Nations staff are international civil servants and may be assigned to any location in which the UN operates,” wrote Sharon Van Buerle, chief of the Political, Legal and Humanitarian Service Office of Program Planning, Budget and Accounts for the UN Secretariat. “In this particular case, Mr Herrel had a one-year assignment in [New York] and when that expired his new assignment as Chief Administrative Officer of the peacekeeping operation in Burundi took him to that location,” the e-mail said.
Van Buerle did not name Herrel’s successor but said that the change in personnel should not affect ongoing preparations for the trials. “You may wish to note that as requested by the General Assembly, the Secretary-General [Kofi Annan] is currently finalizing and will be reporting shortly [at the 59th session of the General Assembly] on the progress” of the Khmer Rouge tribunal, she continued. The UN team’s next visit to Phnom Penh remains unscheduled and is “under internal review,” Van Buerle wrote.
Before leaving the tribunal team last week, Herrel had been trying to coordinate that trip—during which the government’s tribunal task force, donor nation representatives and the UN camp were supposed to settle on a budget—since early July.
He ran up against a dearth of communication with his Cambodian counterparts, of which he complained to the government’s tribunal task force executive secretary, Sean Visoth, and scheduling conflicts on both sides.
In New York, Herrel was confronted by balking donor nations, who have attempted to slash his proposed budget estimate of more than $50 million. The budget debate remains unresolved.
Sean Visoth said Wednesday that he had not been informed about Herrel’s reassignment to Burundi. He declined to comment on the departure. He also said he is waiting for UN officials in New York to e-mail him about scheduling their next visit.
As for the Cambodian side’s efforts, “We are waiting for the amended law to be signed [by acting Head of State Chea Sim]. When it is finished, we will see what happens,” he said.
(Additional reporting by Yun Samean)