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Cambodia; United Nations: Ethics Monitor Proposed for ECCC

(Apr. 14, 2009) United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Legal Affairs Peter Taksoe-Jensen, on April 8, 2009, proposed an ethics monitoring mechanism for the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), a U.N.-backed tribunal in Cambodia. The tribunal was established in 2003 to try those suspected of genocide and other crimes committed during the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia in the late 1970s. It is estimated that two million people died during the 1975-1979 period. (UN Suggests Anti-Corruption Measures for Cambodian Genocide Court, UN NEWS CENTRE, Apr. 8, 2009, available at

The first trial of a suspect began in March 2009, when Kaing Guek Eav was charged with torture and murder while he ran a detention camp in Cambodia. (For details, see the ECCC website, (last visited Apr. 9, 2009).)

Taksoe-Jensen's provisional ethics monitoring mechanism, which he suggested to the Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister, Sok An, is designed to address suggestions of corruption at the ECCC. Speaking about the issue, Taksoe-Jensen said that the staff of the ECCC should have the ability to approach any ethics monitor on their own, to make statements without fear of retaliation. He added that the U.N. planned to strengthen its own anti-corruption mechanism within the tribunal. (UN NEWS CENTRE, supra.)

The corruption charges stem from allegations that staff members at the ECCC were forced to hand back part of their salaries to Cambodian officials. One senior court official was apparently investigated and exonerated by the Cambodian government. Khieu Kanharith, the information minister, stated: “[t]hey told me they cannot find any proof of kick-back or corruption. … If you want the court – the trial – to go ahead, separate the two cases.” (Dan Rivers, Cambodian War Crimes Court in Corruption Probe, CNN, Mar. 31, 2009, available at

Defense attorneys in the cases under consideration at the ECCC, however, intend to bring up the corruption issue in an attempt to discredit the work of the court. Defense consultant Andrew Ianuzzi justified linking the corruption issue with the cases being considered, saying:

What's really disturbing is that by the time the judges make their decision, every piece of evidence, every bit that they look at and evaluate and deliberate on, will have passed through the office of administration and will have literally passed through the hands of people who we say have dirty hands. (Id.)