UN Officer Cites Gov’t Meddling in Tribunal: Panel

Meeting with a visiting German parliamentary delegation in October, the Khmer Rouge tribunal’s UN Coordinator allegedly asserted that the government was interfering in the work of the tribunal by opposing additional prosecutions and that, if Cambodia continued to oppose a satisfactory resolution to corruption allegations at the court, the UN should withdraw from the process, according to a report published by the German parliament. According to the report by the German Bundestag’s human rights and humanitarian aid committee, published on the Internet in November, committee members said Knut Rosandhaug, coordinator of the UN Assistance to the Khmer Rouge Trials, described the tribunal as subject to political influence and corruption, and that a UN investigation into kickback allegations at the court had investigated a senior member of the court’s Cambodian administration.

“The cooperation of the international side with the national government of Cambodia is problematic since the latter attempts to interfere in the work of the tribunal,” said the German-language report, which claimed to paraphrase the contents of an Oct 28 discussion between members of the committee and Rosandhaug in Phnom Penh.

“The Cambodian government has already signaled that it will not allow for any further proceedings to happen,” the report stated.

“A serious problem is the grave corruption that impedes on the work of the hybrid court. The Cambodian staff of the court must pay protection money to be able to work,” the report’s authors wrote, citing Rosandhaug. “In addition, the United Nations has conducted an investigation of the head of the administration of the ECCC, Sean Visoth.”

“In [Rosandhaug’s] opinion, the UN must pull out of the tribunal if the national government continues to refuse that allegations of corruption be looked into,” the report continued. “So far, the government has consistently denied the existence of the problem. The UN would lose its credibility if it supported a corrupt tribunal.” The tribunal’s public affairs office said Wednesday that Rosandhaug could not comment on the parliamentary committee’s report.

“The document referred to is issued by an entity outside the UN and the ECCC. As such, the UNAKRT Coordinator was neither involved nor consulted on its content and publication. As a rule, he does not make comments on such documents. Hence, he also refrains from doing so in this instance,” the public affairs section said in a written statement.

Sean Visoth could not be reached on Wednesday. As of today, Sean Visoth has been absent from the Khmer Rouge tribunal for three months, officially for health reasons. His return to work was announced by the court on Jan 30 but this was reversed within 48 hours, which the court said was done on the advice of doctors.

The public affairs section said on Wednesday that Sean Visoth was still recovering.

“[T]he Director of the Office of Administration is still on sick leave. It is not our practice to reveal personal medical information,” the office said in a statement.

Two diplomatic sources contacted this month said that tribunal donors had in fact objected to Sean Visoth’s return to work due to his poor handling of the corruption allegations at the court. Contacted on Wednesday in Germany, members of the five-person delegation said they said there had been no mention of confidentiality in the conversation with Rosandhaug. “If it’s in the report then I’m sure it’s correct,” Eduard Lintner, Christian Social Union member of parliament for Bad Kissingen in northern Baveria, said by telephone. “It is reported on us. We do not have any evidence, of course.”

“We discussed all these things in the report but it’s only a report on the visit and there’s nothing confidential in it,” Lintner said, adding that the delegation was particularly concerned by reports of political opposition to additional prosecutions at the tribunal.

“We do not think it’s enough to have accused five people. The regime didn’t exist because of five people,” he said. “That’s not very logical.”

As part of a disagreement resolution process underway before the court’s Pre-Trial Chamber, international Co-Prosecutor Robert Petit has proposed opening judicial investigations into a further six individuals, though one, former Commerce Minister Van Rith, died in November. Petit’s Cambodian Co-Prosecutor Chea Leang has opposed this, drawing accusations of political influence from court monitors.

Chea Leang said Wednesday that she had not read the report and could not comment however she has in the past rejected accusations of political influence. Petit cast doubts on the report’s accuracy.

“Obviously I cannot comment on Mr Rosandhaug’s alleged comments since I cannot attest that he indeed made them. Nor can I comment on allegations on any topics including possible interference,” he wrote in an e-mail. “Should Mr Rosandhaug, you or anyone else have factual evidence as opposed to suppositions then we may revisit the issue,” he said.

“For the record, I recall that there was already some confusion about reported comments of the delegation during its visit. I wonder if this is not the case again,” he added.

The government in September reacted with dismay to the findings of a review of kickback allegations undertaken by the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services, saying it had unfairly identified Cambodian officials suspected of wrongdoing. While asserting legal jurisdiction over any allegations concerning Cambodian officials, the government has also cited a lack of evidence to support the allegations of kickbacks and has refused repeated UN requests for a full inquiry into the allegations.

(Additional reporting by Isabelle Roughol and Phann Ana)

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