The Khmer Rouge tribunal defense team for Brother Number Two Nuon Chea on Thursday submitted a criminal complaint with the Phnom Penh Municipal Court to investigate corruption allegations at the court.
The status of the complaint is still in question, however, as court officials at least initially on Thursday did not accept the complaint.
The move by Nuon Chea’s defense is the latest development surrounding corruption allegations at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, which were initially publicized in February 2007.
The UN Development Program asked the government to investigate the accusations of court jobs for kickbacks in a Jan 11, 2008, letter to Cabinet Minister Sok An, but the government declined.
And in July, funding for the Cambodian side of the court was frozen after the allegations were sent to New York in July and reviewed by the UN, which reportedly recommended a full investigation. The UN’s findings, however, were never released to the public.
The Nuon Chea team says it has asked both the international and Cambodian sides of the ECCC administration as well as Cabinet Minister Sok An to share the UN review with them, but the ECCC declined and Sok An had failed to answer their request.
Michiel Pestman, Nuon Chea’s international lawyer, said at the courthouse Thursday that he viewed the handling of the allegations as “an apparent refusal by the government to take this thing seriously.”
“We don’t know exactly what’s going on, but we know we’ve heard that kickbacks are being paid by Cambodian nationals at the ECCC. We don’t know whether all Cambodians are paying kickbacks, and we don’t know exactly to whom. But we know it happens and the failure to investigate, that is what worries us,” Pestman said at the court.
Pestman now wants the municipal court to open its own investigation into the allegations.
The municipal court clerk’s office on Thursday said the 48-page complaint was a “special case,” and marked it as an “incoming document” instead of accepting it as a criminal case filing.
Had the office accepted it as a filing, it would have started the 60-day time period within which the prosecutor is legally required to review the case. Pestman and the rest of the Nuon Chea defense team are scheduled to meet with Prosecutor Ouk Savouth at 9 am today to discuss their complaint.
UNDP declined to comment on the issue Thursday.
Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan called the development “old news,” and pointed to an anti-corruption committee that was formed at the tribunal in August as evidence of addressing potential problems.
(Additional reporting by Douglas Gillison)
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