UN administrator says tribunal offers lessons

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 the tribunal 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 skills developed at the court 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 and gradually help uplift its practice.”

“The place of the ECCC 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 yesterday 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 yesterday his office was working with Cambodian authorities to initiate a program to foster such a transfer.

 

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