UN Supports Victims Unit Chief, Despite Criticism of Many

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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