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Don't pave Cambodia's flawed path to justice

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An internal audit, made public in October only after portions of it were leaked, uncovered a raft of problems at the tribunal. These included: an inadequate oversight mechanism, Cambodian staff hired without meeting the minimum job requirements, artificially high pay scales, and hiring practices so flawed that the auditors recommended that every Cambodian hired at the tribunal be fired.

An expert report, also leaked from the tribunal, paints a similarly bleak picture. The split Cambodia/international tribunal structure is "divisive and unhelpful," claimed Robin Vincent, former registrar for the Special Court for Sierra Leone, and Kevin St. Louis, chief of administration for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. They recommended that managerial responsibilities for the tribunal be transferred to the UN, and that crucial areas such as translation and witness protection be immediately assumed by the international staff.

Some positive but limited changes have taken place: There is now a written personnel manual that formalizes future recruitment procedures, a code of ethics, and an "anticorruption" pledge. International managers are now allowed to participate in evaluations of their Cambodian staff.

While these may be promising signs, they fail to address the heart of the matter. The auditors' suggestion that the Cambodian staff be fired and new employees hired under careful UN supervision was simply dismissed. The artificially high pay scales remain. The flawed split-tribunal structure is unchanged.

As for the kickback allegations, which go to the crux of the court's credibility, there appears to be no political will at the tribunal or the UN to launch any genuine and thorough investigation. The UN may be reluctant to press this matter, fearing Prime Minister Hun Sen would pull the plug on the tribunal rather than permit an independent and thorough investigation that might implicate individuals within his government.

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