OSJI Calls for KRT Whistleblower Protection

Before continuing to support the Khmer Rouge tribunal, donors must demand that whistle­blowers at the court are protected, a group monitoring the court said Wednes­day.

In a periodic report on tribunal activities, the US-based Open So­ciety Justice Initiative said the tribunal’s current fundraising campaign provided an opportunity for donors to exact a meaningful resolution to persistent concerns about corruption that have arisen almost since the court’s foundation.

With recent German and US pledges of $6.1 million to its UN side, the tribunal is currently seeking to raise an additional $36 million to keep it in operation until the end of 2009.

Because of kickback allegations reported to UN staff earlier this year, the UN Development Pro­gram in August halted funding to the court’s Cambodian side, which has re­ceived no subsequent pledges from donors.

The government said last month that it had received the findings of a UN review of the allegations and that Cambodian authorities would act if they received the original complaints.

Wednesday’s report by OSJI said the current situation could provide donors with the leverage to seek important changes.

“There is a long history of violent retaliation in Cambodia against those who threaten powerful political or economic interests,” OSJI said.

“Donors must work with the UN to put in place measures ensuring that all persons with information about corruption may report it freely, confidentially and without fear of retaliation. For this reason, complainants justifiably fear the prospect of their identities’ becoming known to Cambodian court administrators and the government,” OSJI added.

Khmer Rouge tribunal Public Affairs Chief Helen Jarvis said Wednesday that Cambodian au­thorities had not been told the identities of the Cambodian staff who complained to UN officials of kickbacks nor had they been informed of the precise contents of those complaints.

“I think it’s very hard to devise a protection program for someone if you don’t know who they are or what they’ve said,” Jarvis said.

Jarvis declined to comment on the possibility that the complainants who had come forward to the UN could be in danger, calling this a “hypothetical situation.”

However she said that mechanisms currently in place at the court did provide for the protection of complainants.

“The ethics monitors are bound to maintain the confidentiality of the complainants,” Jarvis added.

The government announced last month that the court’s two ethics monitors, Jarvis and Supreme Court Chamber President Kong Srim, had received an initial complaint, which was anonymous.

UNDP reiterated on Wednesday that a decision by donors to continue funding the tribunal would depend on a satisfactory resolution to the allegations pf corruption recently reviewed by the UN.

“Stringent and transparent anticorruption mechanisms on both the national and international side of the court should be an element of this resolution,” UNDP said in a response to queries submitted Wednesday.

A donor diplomat at the UN said Tuesday that the court’s backers were perplexed as to how to devise a response acceptable to all sides amid the current standoff on the corruption complaints.

“Actually, we think it’s a very difficult situation,” he said by telephone from New York. “To be honest, we don’t really have any concrete solution.”

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