The US wants transparency from the UN and Cambodia in the choosing of judges for the Khmer Rouge tribunal and will not commit to providing funds until it sees which officials are appointed, a US official said Thursday.
“It is important that there are people of integrity, people of competence appointed to the tribunal process,” Pierre-Richard Prosper, US ambassador-at-large for War Crimes Issues, told a news conference at the US Embassy.
“We have to see who is selected for the process because it comes down to the people. If you have good people, credible people, you can have a credible process,” Prosper said.
Prosper’s comments came at the end of a two-day visit, during which he met with government officials, including Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, and NGOs. He was unable to meet with UN staff because of their schedules.
Prosper said the US could eventually contribute a “respectable” amount of money for the tribunal, though the US, in the past, has said it would not do so unless it was satisfied the trial would meet international standards.
“We will continue to follow and monitor with the hopes that we will be able to make a decision, a favorable decision, in the future,” Prosper said.
The selection process has already been mired in controversy for what has been described as the “shortlist” of judges and prosecutors to be selected for the tribunal.
The UN and government had refused to name those attending two UNDP-funded training courses, the most recent having concluded last week.
Prosper said the secrecy surrounding the course highlighted the need for transparency from both the government and the UN so the process is as credible as possible.
“It is important the UN, in its role, meets these same goals,” he said.
Responding to Prosper’s calls for transparency, Helen Jarvis of the government’s Khmer Rouge tribunal task force, said the criteria for judges and prosecutors who will preside over the tribunal has been set down in the law establishing the Extraordinary Chambers.
However, she would not describe the process by which the up to 11 judges and two prosecutors will be chosen for the tribunal.
“Things will be announced in due course,” she said.
Sok Sam Oeun, executive director of the Cambodian Defenders Project, said no one seems to know how the judges will be chosen or when.
He said Prosper’s comments may help, even if the US has not committed to contributing funds for the tribunal.
“The US is very powerful,” he said. “Other donors listen to them.”