Friday, 25 April 2008

Genocide court crash?
Fri, 25 Apr 2008

UN officials on Friday denied allegations of financial mismanagement at Cambodia's genocide tribunal after ordering a review of the cash-strapped court in an effort to restore the confidence of foreign donors.

International backers have appeared hesitant to pledge more money to the UN-backed court, which was set up to try former Khmer Rouge leaders, amid allegations of mismanagement and political interference.

"Through the various audits that have been conducted to date, there has never been any issue with regard to the management of the (tribunal)'s financial resources," said Jo Scheuer, country director of the UN development programme, which now oversees the financial management of the Cambodian side of the court.

"All of their financial transactions have passed audit scrutiny," said Scheuer, who is also a member of the tribunal's project board.

Last year, the New York-based Open Justice Society Initiative alleged that Cambodian tribunal staff, including judges, had bought their jobs.

Tribunal administrative director Sean Visoth said the allegations were "unspecific, unsourced and unsubstantiated."

"There is no government policy to take kickbacks from staff," he said, but added no one could guarantee a system was 100 percent corruption-free.

"With the results of the special review we are sharing with you today we can finally close this chapter and move on to continue the very positive achievement the (court) has made in discharging its historic mandate," Visoth said.

The officials made the comments during a press conference to release an independent special human resources management review of the tribunal.

The review stated "there were no recent allegations of mismanagement" in the tribunal and found staff on the Cambodian side were "robust and ready to take on the challenges of the next phase of operation."

Scheuer said the review was important "to restore donors' confidence" and address all the allegations.

Originally budgeted at $56.3-million over three years, the tribunal, which opened in 2006 after nearly a decade of wrangling between the UN and Cambodia, has significantly raised its cost estimates to $170-million.

Up to two million people died of starvation and overwork, or were executed as the communist Khmer Rouge dismantled modern Cambodian society in a bid to forge an agrarian utopia during its 1975-1979 rule.

Five former regime leaders have been detained by the tribunal for their alleged role in one of the 20th century's worst atrocities.


No comments: