NEW YORK—Corruption allegations leveled at Cambodian judges and court officials at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia must be investigated thoroughly, fairly, and quickly, the Open Society Justice Initiative said today.
Cambodian financial operations at the court are the subject of ongoing external investigation. Serious allegations that Cambodian court personnel, including judges, must kick back a significant percentage of their wages to Cambodian government officials in exchange for their positions on the court are undermining the credibility of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia. The alleged entanglement of money, political favors, government officials, and judicial officers heightens fears that the Cambodian judges are subject to government interference and cannot act independently. These allegations, if proven, would severely undercut the legitimacy of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, the court established to try senior leaders and those most responsible for the crimes of the Khmer Rouge.
"Donors, the international community, and the Cambodian people have the right to know that money entrusted to the [court] is being spent transparently and honestly," said James A. Goldston, executive director of the Open Society Justice Initiative. "If these allegations of corruption are confirmed, it would strip the [court] of its integrity and undermine its ability to provide accountability for mass crimes."
According to court's Director of Administration Sean Visoth, an audit by an international accounting firm has been commissioned by the United Nations Development Program-the UN body holding funds in trust for international donors-of human resources practices on the Cambodian side of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia.
"The court's most precious resource—public confidence—is at stake," said Goldston. "Too often in Cambodia's recent history, allegations of corruption in the use of public funds have been swept under the rug. This malign neglect must end. The audit must be completed swiftly and its findings released publicly."
In addition, the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia should immediately implement further measures to combat corruption and protect the court's independence and transparency.
According to the Justice Initiative, these additional measures should include:
- greater transparency in hiring procedures for Cambodian staff and improved human resource management;
- placement of an independent full-time financial monitor within the court itself; and
- creation of a whistleblower mechanism which would alert donors if corruption concerns resurface and protect those who come forward with information.
Furthermore, the Group of Interested States—the informal organization of donor nations working with the court—should create a mechanism capable of exercising effective oversight of the court's administrative and financial practices, and should demand more regular and public accounting of the court's expenditures.