Written By vibykhmer on Monday, January 12, 2009 | 3:54 PM
Sean Visoth, head of administration at Cambodia's Extraordinary Chambers, is the subject of a new complaint by defence lawyers acting for Nuon Chea. He is show here in a file photo. (Photo: AFP)
Monday, 12 January 2009
Written by Cat Barton
The Phnom Penh Post
"....the Cambodian judiciary has used the threat of defamation in the past."
Claiming a recent complaint by foreign lawyers acting for Nuon Chea unfairly smears them, Cambodian ECCC judges say they reserve the right to sue
FOREIGN lawyers for Nuon Chea accused Cambodian judges at the Khmer Rouge tribunal Sunday of using intimidation tactics, including the threat to sue, to try to block a criminal investigation into corruption allegations at the UN-backed court.
Angered over a complaint filed last week in the Municipal Court by Nuon Chea's defence team urging a probe into two of Cambodia's top tribunal administrators, the judges said that they were being unfairly smeared by the lawyers and would "reserve the right to legal recourse against any individuals who have provoked such a problem".
The lawyers' decision to go public with their complaint "caused confusion and seriously affected the honour and dignity of all individual judges and [the ECCC] as a whole", the judges said in a statement Friday.
But lawyers for the regime's former Brother No 2 have dismissed the judges' objections, saying they would be happy to defend themselves against any defamation claims.
"It is no secret that the Cambodian judiciary has used the threat of defamation in the past to silence its critics," said Andrew Ianuzzi, a co-lawyer for Nuon Chea, adding that "any ECCC official with clean hands would welcome, rather than regret, the effort to uncover the corruption".
"We'll be happy to defend ourselves against any political charges they [the judges] may concoct," he told the Post.
Municipal Court Chief Judge Chev Keng on Friday accepted the lawyers' complaint, opening the way for an investigation into Sean Visoth, Cambodia's top tribunal administrator, and former chief of personnel Keo Thyvuth over accusations that Cambodian court employees have been forced to kick back portions of their salaries to their bosses.
The graft complaints have already gone before the UN, but the results of a review by the world body into the allegations have never been made public.
The move into Municipal Court could provide one of the most serious legal challenges to date for the tribunal, whose credibility has been battered by repeated allegations of misconduct stemming from mismanagement of the graft claims at the heart of this most recent complaint.
"We're just trying to get to the bottom of this," Ianuzzi said.
"If the ECCC wants to do this, fantastic, but it seems to us that the ECCC has little, if any, interest in getting to the bottom of it - so we'll see how far the national courts are prepared to go."
But his Cambodian counterpart, Son Arun, has so far declined to sign off on the complaint, saying there was no need to take the team's complaint outside of the tribunal's jurisdiction.
"This is strictly only the foreign legal team," Son Arun told the Post Sunday.
"Before, I signed the letter requesting [corruption information] from [Sean] Visoth, but I wanted to keep the complaint within the ECCC, which is why I am not involved now."