A senior Cambodian Khmer Rouge tribunal judge has called for the Open Society Justice Initiative to withdraw allegations that Cambodian court officials have paid kickbacks in return for their positions.
In a letter issued March 9 by the tribunal’s public affairs office, Kong Srim, presiding judge in the Supreme Court Chamber, said the charges publicized last month by OSJI had undermined Cambodian officials’ credibility and should be retracted.
“This unsubstantiated allegation…creates public confusion and seriously undermines the reputation and integrity of all national judges appointed to the [Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia],” Kong Srim wrote in the letter to James Goldston, OSJI executive director.
In a Feb 14 statement, OSJI said there are allegations that Cambodian court employees, including judges, kick back significant portions of their wages to government officials “in exchange for their positions on the court,” and called for a thorough investigation.
Kong Srim said the allegations by the New York-based legal group were groundless. “All national judges of the ECCC hereby affirm to you and the public at large that our decisions to work for the ECCC were made without being subject to any pressure or promise,” he wrote. “Therefore, we request you to correct by appropriate means this unsubstantiated allegation.”
OSJI monitor Heather Ryan declined to comment, while Goldston could not be contacted.
In an e-mailed statement last week, Goldston wrote that the charges came from “a wide range of sources both inside and outside the court.”
Theary Seng of the Center for Social Development said the tension over the allegations risked upstaging a crucial moment in the court’s formation.
“It’s becoming a distraction and this is why if I was OSJI I would just let it rest at this,” she said. “These are the immediate issues to concentrate on: We want the internal rules to be official relatively soon and we want them to be of international standards.” (Additional reporting by Prak Chan Thul)