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Cambodian genocide court faces allegations


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Cambodian genocide court faces allegations

Cambodia’s UN-backed genocide tribunal is facing new corruption allegations, prompting foreign donors to withhold more than $300,000 from the proceedings pending a review of the claims, reported AP on Thursday.

AP said the new scandal came as the UN-assisted tribunal prepared for its first trial, next month, for atrocities allegedly committed during the 1975-79 rule of the Khmer Rouge, who are blamed for the deaths of an estimated 1.7 million people from starvation, disease, overwork and execution.

Cambodian and UN-appointed staff jointly run the tribunal with two separate budget lines supported by contributions from international donors.

In a Wednesday statement, the United Nations Development Program said it was withholding funding for operating expenses and salaries for Cambodian staffers at the tribunal. It did not provide an amount.

It said new kickback allegations surfaced in late June, but provided no other details.
Helen Jarvis, spokeswoman for the tribunal’s Cambodian side, said she has not seen any allegations and could not comment on whether they had merit.

None of the 250 Cambodian staff members have yet received their July salaries, she said, adding that the total payroll for the national personnel is about $300,000 a month. Aside from salaries, it was unclear how much money was being withheld.

“We hope the situation will be urgently solved. Staff need to be paid and indeed deserve to be paid for their work,” she said in an e-mail.

Peter Foster, spokesman for the tribunal’s United Nations’ side, declined to discuss details of the allegations but said they were brought up after June 25 by “more than one” person.

He said the allegations had been submitted to a UN official in Cambodia and were being reviewed by the UN’s oversight and investigative services office in New York.

The UNDP statement said funding for the month of July was initially held up to await submission from the Cambodian side of a spending plan, “which is a standard procedure to preserve the integrity of the funds.

“Following this, new allegations of kickbacks arose,” the UNDP said. However, it did not specify how much money was withheld or provide details of the kickbacks.

“We want to ensure that donor funds are used for their intended purpose,” it said.
“Our aim is to move forward with the work of the tribunal, without sacrificing the integrity of the funds supporting it.”

It is the second time the tribunal has faced a graft scandal.

In 2007, allegations arose that Cambodian tribunal staff had paid kickbacks in exchange for their jobs. The tribunal’s Cambodian side dismissed the allegations as unsubstantiated.

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