The UN side of the Khmer Rouge tribunal on Wednesday publicly defended victims unit Chief Helen Jarvis, who since last week has been publicly attacked by defense lawyers as a government agent with undemocratic political views who is unsuited to serve the interests of victims.
Two directors of a non-governmental organization on Wednesday also called for Ms Jarvis’ removal, joining what has become a chorus of criticism since Ms Jarvis was transferred last week from the court’s public affairs office to its victims unit.
Ms Jarvis on Wednesday maintained her silence on the controversy now surrounding her.
However, at a press conference, UN legal communications officer Lars Olsen said Ms Jarvis enjoys the support of chief UN administrator Knut Rosandhaug.
Mr Olsen also said that Mr Rosandhaug had responded to a June 4 letter from lawyers for former Khmer Rouge Foreign Minister Ieng Sary, who said Ms Jarvis should not conduct outreach on behalf of all sides of the tribunal while at the same time serving the interests of victims, who are parties to the trials.
“Dr Jarvis is discharging her duties in a professional manner,” said Mr Olsen, noting that all staff members are entitled to their personal political beliefs. “Mr Rosandhaug fully supports the appointment of Dr Jarvis as the new head of the victims unit.”
Mr Olsen said Mr Rosandhaug had explained to the defense team that outreach supervised by Ms Jarvis is separate from that conducted by the public affairs office.
In a statement to the press on Wednesday, the Cambodian Center for Human Rights said Ms Jarvis’ new appointment should be immediately suspended.
The statement drew particular attention to her relations with senior government officials and speculated that her appointment was “designed to further strengthen the [government’s] control over proceedings.”
Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia, said Wednesday that Ms Jarvis had failed to communicate effectively on behalf of the court and that, while Ms Jarvis has Cambodian nationality, a victims unit chief should be of Cambodian origin in order to instill trust in members of the public.
Mr Chhang said he doubted any political motive behind the appointment, however.
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