UN Administrator Says KRT Offers Lessons to Nat’l Courts

The top UN administrator at the Khmer Rouge tribunal said yesterday that Cambodia’s national courts, long criticized for shortcomings, could learn from the hybrid tribunal in areas like legal procedure.

The comments by Knut Rosand­haug, the tribunal’s deputy director of administration, came during a rough­ly 40-minute speech to an audience of about 400 government officials at the Council of Ministers in Phnom Penh.

Mr Rosandhaug urged those “who can make a difference in this coun­try…to watch the court and learn from it” and then discussed “different areas…that I think we can transfer into the domestic judiciary.”

He pointed to “transfer of skills,” saying, “We train people on the job and these people will trickle into the public sectors, the courts [and] many of them [into] ministries.”

Mr Rosandhaug also said les­sons could be learned from on how to conduct a trial, citing, for example, “the way to ask ques­tions so you don’t step on the presumption of innocence.”

Developing Cambodia’s judiciary has long been one of the court’s stated aims. In an appeal to donors on Sept 7, Cabinet Minister Sok An called for assistance in transferring the developed skills to the local court system.

In a Sept 16 report calling for an over­haul of the national courts, UN human rights envoy Surya Subedi said there was “much expectation” that the tribunal would act as a mo­del “so that good practices can be shared with the wider judiciary.”

“The place of the [Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambo­dia] within the Cambodian judicial system potentially enables the Cam­bo­dian judges, prosecutors and other court officials at the ECCC to transfer knowledge to their colleagues in the judiciary,” Mr Subedi wrote.

Independent observer Chea Van­nath expressed caution over such a process, saying that the Cambodian courts “need the mech­anism, the system, the infrastructure to receive all that knowledge transfer, and all of that takes time.”

Christophe Peschoux, country rep­resentative for the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said his office was working with authorities to initiate a program to foster such a transfer.


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