ECCC Reparations

This blog is designed to serve as a repository of analyses, news reports and press releases related to the issue of RERAPATIONS within the framework of the Extraordinary Chambers in Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), a.k.a. the Khmer Rouge Tribunal.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Editorial: What Now?

What now?


Stan Starygin

After the publication of the grueling UNDP audit of the ECCC, there has been a host of commentaries and interpretations of its assertions. Many agree that the UNDP clearly pointed to far more than minor indiscretions on the part of "the Cambodian side" of the tribunal, bringing to light practices which amount of the notion of bad faith. The Cambodian government responded to these assertions in several ways. In some cases it re-assigned some of the blame back to the UN, put a spin on the hiring and remuneration theories deriving from the ECCC Law and generally chalked up several fiascos in its hiring practices to experience promising that the functioning of "the Cambodian side" would improve as the process goes along.

During late summer and early fall of 2006 the word of hiring "irregularities" was out in the community with some Cambodian applicants dropping out of the application process based on a strong belief that they would not be given a fair chance of getting the job. One didn't have to go any further than spending a little time in the halls of the tribunals packed with shortlisted applicants some of them gradually leaving as the news spread. This was word on the street, of course, not any type of hard evidence to base serious allegations upon. This was a few months before OSJI published its allegations and called for an independent audit of the tribunal.

This news made headlines thousands of miles away from Phnom Penh and sparked some heated-up debates in Phnom Penh's expatriate community. None of the Cambodians were surprised. The representatives of the international community made several perfunctory statements about Cambodia's obligation to abide by the rule of law and fair practices, but most of the diplomats themselves did not seem to put my weight into what they were saying. One diplomat -- who's identity the Cambodia Daily did not reveal -- openly pointed out to the fact that such allegations are no news flash in Cambodia and this is how things are done in day-to-day practice. This diplomat surely enough would have never admitted to something like this had anonymity not been guaranteed. He has a valid point, though, which many who have spent any time in Cambodia fully understand.

Unfair hiring practices, lack of due diligence, illegal financial practices and other uncouth practices are nothing new in the modern world of enrons, authur andersons, worldcoms, ingens, world banks and the like, though. The question is to what extent can we expect a court in a developing country riddled with unbridled corruption to follow the principles of fair hiring practices and whether the international community can continue on the assumption that this is not Finland and that full transparency and fairness will not be achieved at least within the lifetime of this tribunal?

The international community finds itself between the rock and a hard place in the matter. On the one hand, the community understands that practices which go back thousands of years and which are part and parcel of Cambodian culture cannot be discontinued with within a short period of time such as that of the life of the tribunal. On the other hand, the international community cannot openly endorse these practices due to them being inimical to everything the international community's democratic and development business-driving component stands for. It seems like a Catch-22 situation, in which a choice made either way will be wrong.

The international community has found an answer to this question that circumvents the horns of the dilemma described above: it will put enough pressure on the Cambodian government and probably ruffle a few feathers but avoid letting the situation reach a breakpoint. The Cambodian government, on its end, will either try to sweep the matter under the rug or promise to examine it and improve the situation in the future and carry on with the thousands of years' vintage practices. In simple English, the international community will shake its finger and the Cambodian government will throw its hands apart. The show will go on, as planned. As planned by someone, anyway. That's what now.


At October 30, 2007 at 1:43 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

The "international community" should have been careful about what it wished for. Those government and "civil society" elites in Europe, the United States, Australia and Japan that conflated justice with law and "seeking accountability" with a trial in court, got what they wanted: the ECCC.

How can they now be so upset that desperate people in Cambodia (and Liberia, and Sierra Leone, and Rwanda ad infinitum) will allow rent-seeking to govern this hybrid court's "local" hiring process? Wasn't that how it worked in the appointment of so-called "internationals" in the court -- political accommodation, backroom negotiations, self-serving agreements among the functionaries of the elites who controlled the court's budget?

"Internationals" is a misnomer -- these are Westerners, privileged to have studied in Western law schools that allowed them to get the internships, job opportunities, postings and over-all 'experience' that a Cambodian (or Rwandan, Timorese) or other generally non-White, non-Western lawyer or professional will never have.

What accounts for instance, for the phenomenon of having Robert Petit work in the "hybrid courts" of East Timor, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and now Cambodia? No other lawyers outside of the Western hemisphere know international human rights law? Or that no lawyers from the conflict-ridden, historicallyp-oppressed States where these courts are being set up has the kind of insight that only someone who has assumed the White Man's Burden all over, can possess?

It is sheer hypocrisy for the "internationals" to insist that Cambodia follow transparency and fairness now, when they so happily agreed to be paid in precious (to Cambodians!) foreign exchange, at "international" (but-of-course rates, which they then stash in their Geneva accounts for that next holiday trip, while they eat their imported potatoes at the "expats"-only canteen and gossip about how these locals are so rude and dirty, then finally go to work to convict the little Khmer Rouge bastards who would have shot their colonial heads dead had they been in Pnomh Penh in 1975.

At November 28, 2007 at 11:49 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Its hard to know where to being when faced with such irrational anger.

Ignoring the wild unfounded accusations of back room deals, and the absolute dismissal of anything that is in anyway connected with international organizations and individuals, let just look at a few of the absolute falsehoods and double-talk in this note.

Robert Petit, as the poster pointed out, has many years experience in a variety of international and hybrid courts. Is it being suggested that the court should look for someone without this kind of experience? The truth is that he is good at what he does and because of that continued to get similar positions. The fact that he has worked in so many courts is a good thing. It means the court got the very best person.

The government of Cambodia itself has said it needed the additional expertise and anyone with knowledge of Cambodian history certainly knows why there is a shortage a qualified experienced legal professionals today.

It is not clear to me what the poster is talking about when attempting to critic salary payments of international staff (levels for which are set for all UN by the International Civil Service Commission and published) and the need for an open and transparent process. It is probably useful to know however that lawyers and judges in 'western nations' would make far far more money there then they will in the ECCC. Most will be taking significant pay cuts to come and be a part of this process.

The characterization of an 'international only' cafeteria is completely false and the suggested blatant racism which the poster seems capable of writing about would appear to be figment of his or her imagination. At least to anyone who has actually spent any time in the court itself.

The hatred of all things foreign which the poster displays is exactly the kind of emotion that the Khmer Rouge used to take power and abuse the nation.

I hope the poster will take time to reflect on his strange view and find a more constructive way to deal with the anger his has at himself (I am assuming he or she is from the 'west'), but somehow I doubt it.


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