U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, third left, is received by Cambodian Information Minister Khieu Kanharith, right, upon his arrival at Phnom Penh International Airport in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2010. Ban arrived Tuesday for a three-day official visit to Cambodia as part of his four-country Asian tour.
Thursday, 28 October 2010 17:18 Cheang Sokha
Yves Sorokobi, a spokesman for the secretary general, said it was not up to Hun Sen to make decisions on UN staffing.
“Pulling staff out of a particular country or not is a matter of internal personnel issues, it’s a matter for the secretary general to decide,” Sorokobi said. “In the meantime, we fully stand by the work of the human rights commissioner and by her representatives around the world, including here.”
Soroki said the office’s work in Cambodia was a matter of “bilateral cooperation” and that Ban would consider Hun Sen’s request to close the office “in due course”.
Peschoux said on Wednesday that his office was “discussing the matter internally” and could not comment further.
During meetings with Ban on Wednesday, Hun Sen also informed the UN head that the government would not allow the pending investigations in the third and fourth cases at the Khmer Rouge tribunal to move to trial. Following a tour of Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum yesterday, Ban responded to these comments, affirming the importance of the court’s independence.
“This is an international judicial process, so this is a decision to be made by the court,” Ban said. He addded that he had engaged in multiple discussions of the issue with Hun Sen and Deputy Prime Minister Sok An over the course of his trip.
“I can tell you that the government of Cambodia is committed to completion of process, and the United Nations will discuss this matter with the international community, particularly donors,” Ban said.
The Open Society Justice Initiative called Hun Sen’s comments “an unacceptable attempt to strangle the court”.
“Hun Sen has just raised the stakes for the court dramatically,” OSJI Executive Director James A Goldston said in a statement. “The tribunal has no choice but to proceed expeditiously with Cases 003/004 to establish that it does not take orders from the government.”
Information Minister Khieu Kanharith yesterday denied that Hun Sen had interfered with the court, but reiterated concerns about the potentially destabilising effects of Cases 003 and 004. Nevertheless, he also suggested that the cases could be handled by the domestic court system, rather than the UN-backed tribunal, in an effort to save money.
“At the moment, the expenses of the court are much more than those for the Ministry of Justice for a whole year,” Khieu Kanharith said. “Samdech [Hun Sen] thought that Cases 001 and 002 were enough for the Cambodian staff to get procedural experience, so that’s why Samdech wants to transfer the other cases to other courts.”
Donors have approved a US$87 million budget for the tribunal’s operations this year and next year. The court’s international side faces a $30 million funding shortfall for next year, while the national side needs an additional $9 million, according to the OSJI.
In remarks delivered following his tour of Tuol Sleng, Ban praised the court and the Kingdom for attempting to address the crimes of the Khmer Rouge period.
“Your courage sends a powerful message to the world that there can be no impunity, that crimes against humanity shall not go unpunished,” Ban said.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY JAMES O’TOOLE