The Netherlands is paying for a corrupt tribunalA Commentary by Victor Koppe and Michiel Pestman
Posted by sarkout on April 20 2009 16:25:40
The first session of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) Khmer Rouge Tribunal started in February. The first person to stand trial at the Khmer Rouge tribunal is suspect, Kaing Guek Eav - known by his revolutionary name ‘Duch'. He- is accused of directing the Tuol Sleng prison in Phnom Penh, where, between 1975 and 1979, more than ten thousand prisoners were tortured and killed.

Many Cambodians, particularly the older generation, have been looking forward to the tribunal. It should have been a meaningful moment, but this is nothing to celebrate. The Cambodian government exercises continued and inappropriate pressure on the tribunal - not only on international lawyers, but also on prosecutors and judges. There are also rumours of structural corruption at the ECCC.
Extended News
The Netherlands is paying for a corrupt tribunalA Commentary by Victor Koppe and Michiel Pestman

15-04-2009

In order to make a fresh start with the Khmer Rouge Tribunal in Cambodia, donations should cease.



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The first session of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) Khmer Rouge Tribunal started in February. The first person to stand trial at the Khmer Rouge tribunal is suspect, Kaing Guek Eav - known by his revolutionary name ‘Duch'. He- is accused of directing the Tuol Sleng prison in Phnom Penh, where, between 1975 and 1979, more than ten thousand prisoners were tortured and killed.

Many Cambodians, particularly the older generation, have been looking forward to the tribunal. It should have been a meaningful moment, but this is nothing to celebrate. The Cambodian government exercises continued and inappropriate pressure on the tribunal - not only on international lawyers, but also on prosecutors and judges. There are also rumours of structural corruption at the ECCC.

The Khmer Rouge tribunal is formally embedded within the Cambodian legal system which, unfortunately, is known as one of the most corrupt in the world. When the tribunal was set up, there was hope that that it would be a positive exception to the rule. But that isn't not what is's happening. The tribunal seems to be contaminated and can't protect itself from the corrupting influence of the Cambodian legal system.

In October last year, German members of parliament visited the court in Phnom Penh. One MP said that the Cambodian government was interfering with the work of the tribunal and trying to prevent the international prosecutor from indicting more suspects. At the moment, five suspects are in preliminary detention - among them our client Nuon Chea, known as ‘Brother Number Two', and the alleged ideologist of the Khmer Rouge.

Increasing the number of the accused is a sensitive issue in Cambodia because of the potential embarrassment it could cause the current political leadership. The three leaders of the Cambodian People's Party all have a history with the Khmer Rouge so the prosecutor should not be too curious.
A few weeks ago, a spokesperson for the Cambodian government said in an interview that the judges should not be too ambitious. He added that international judges only want more work for a higher and longer-lasting salary, and are only interested in filling their own pockets.

Rumours that the Cambodian authorities are playing a leading role in the corruption of the Tribunal are increasing. In the summer of 2008, the United Nations felt obliged to investigate these accusations. The UN report was presented to the Cambodian government in August 2008 but kept secret by all involved. Only of few of the report's conclusions leaked to the outside world.

What those leaks indicate is that all Cambodian employees of the tribunal had to pay for their job and also had to give a percentage of their salary to the tribunal's highest official. But out of fear of reprisals from the government, they don't dare to speak openly about this.

The Cambodian government rushed to cover up these allegations and the United Nations is not willing or able to break this stalemate. Many international organisations have expressed their concern about the situation.

Human Rights Watch, usually a strong proponent of international tribunals, recently called on US President Barack Obama to withdraw all support for the Khmer Rouge tribunal. And the development organisation of the UN (UNDP) froze all funds for the tribunal until the question of corruption is resolved.

The Netherlands is donating money for the Khmer Rouge tribunal and some of that money, given with the best intentions, ends up in the wrong hands. The Dutch government should ask itself if this sort of international legal assistance is well spent.

The Netherlands should stand on its principles and require that the Khmer Rouge tribunal is cleaned up, that all allegations of corruption are investigated thoroughly and that the Cambodian government refrain from any political involvement in the court. Only then should Holland continue its financial support for the Khmer Rouge tribunal.