A Phnom Penh prosecutor on Thursday abruptly ended an investigation into alleged corruption at the Khmer Rouge tribunal, halting a probe in which defense lawyers had sought the investigation of a deputy prime minister and other senior officials.
The UN also announced Friday that it expected to hold another round of discussions with the Cambodian government over efforts to strengthen anticorruption measures at the tribunal after UN and Cambodian officials in January failed to agree on proposed reforms.
According to a copy of a notice dated Thursday, Deputy Municipal Prosecutor Sok Kalyan announced that after less than a month of inquiry, he was halting a preliminary investigation requested by international defense lawyers for Brother Number Two Nuon Chea.
“Even though your complaint accuses staff, including judges, at the ECCC of having paid kickbacks from their salary to the Royal Government of Cambodia to obtain positions at the court, we have decided to dismiss this case,” wrote Sok Kalyan.
As recently as Tuesday, Sok Kalyan had announced his intention to call witnesses from a list provided by the complainants. Thursday’s notice gave no reason for dismissing the case and Sok Kalyan could not be reached for comment on Friday.
Chief Prosecutor Ouk Savuth hung up when telephoned by a reporter.
Acting independently of both their client and of their Cambodian co-counsel, Dutch defense lawyers Michiel Pestman, Victor Koppe and US legal consultant Andrew Ianuzzi lodged the complaint, naming Cabinet Minister Sok An, tribunal Director of Administration Sean Visoth and former chief of personnel Keo Thyvuth and unnamed others as potential suspects.
The lawyers said the aim of the complaint was to determine whether corruption at the court, if there was any, could harm Nuon Chea’s fair trial rights.
Ianuzzi said he had been served with the notice at the tribunal on Friday afternoon and that he, Pestman and Koppe would appeal the prosecutor’s decision.
“This is a huge surprise. I had a meeting with the prosecutor on Wednesday morning at which he said the investigation was continuing,” said Ianuzzi, adding that Sok Kalyan had also said he intended to seek a copy of the findings of a UN review of the kickback allegations. Closely guarded by the UN, the findings reportedly call for a full investigation, but Cambodian authorities have resisted this course of action.
In a statement received Friday, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Legal Affairs Peter Taksøe-Jensen said that a joint report on January’s internal discussions has now been submitted to donors and that he expected to meet for a second round of talks with Sok An.
Following the visit in December of a high-level UN delegation led by Taksøe-Jensen, the UN and Cambodian government agreed to negotiate the establishment of new anticorruption measures.
Despite a looming budget crisis for the court’s Cambodian side, Cambodian officials unilaterally announced Monday that no agreement had been reached. The court’s UN side this week declined to comment on the talks.
“The Cambodian and United Nations representatives finalized their joint report yesterday,” Taksøe-Jensen said in the statement. “It is expected that the DPM [deputy prime minister] and I will meet soon to discuss the way forward.”
Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said Friday he had no information concerning whether a date or a location for the meeting had been set.