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Monday, June 08, 2009

Attacks on Jarvis multiply

Written by Robbie Corey-Boulet

ECCC's head of Victims' Unit under fire from defence teams.

THE DEFENCE team for Khmer Rouge foreign minister Ieng Sary on Thursday registered concerns about the recent appointment of former tribunal spokeswoman Helen Jarvis as head of the court's Victims' Unit, arguing in a letter dated June 4 that her new duties conflicted with her outreach responsibilities.

The letter, addressed to the court's Deputy Director of Administration Knut Rosandhaug, also calls for an administrative inquiry into allegations that Jarvis's expressed political views could compromise her work at the court. In addition, it points to a book Jarvis co-authored in 2004 that the defence team said "strongly implies that Dr Jarvis has preconceptions about the alleged crimes", namely that they constituted genocide.

The bulk of the letter, though, concerns the conflict that will allegedly arise when Jarvis, who became head of the Victims' Unit last Monday, combines the responsibilities of that role with her outreach work.

"We are firmly of the view that amalgamating outreach activities of the entire court together with the interests of the Victims' Unit creates an inescapable conflict of interest for Dr Jarvis through no fault of her own," the letter states.

In an interview Sunday, co-lawyer Ang Udom said the switch from court spokespwoman to Victims' Unit chief amounted to a switch from an objective administrator to active party, making it impossible for her to impartially perform outreach duties.

"Jarvis used to work just with the administration," Ang Udom said. "But when she becomes chief of the Victims' Unit ... she becomes very active in the court process. She is a party in the court."

Andrew Ianuzzi, a legal consultant for Nuon Chea's defence team, said he "absolutely" agreed with the position articulated by Ang Udom and Michael Karnavas, Ieng Sary's international co-lawyer.

"The trouble is, I think that the court has done a pretty bad job of explaining what her outreach roles will encompass," Ianuzzi said.

Court spokesman Reach Sambath said Sunday that court officials had, before making the appointment, concluded that they could avoid a conflict by limiting Jarvis's involvement in outreach to what he termed "micro-outreach".

"We divided this very clearly, because public affairs will continue to focus on macro-outreach," he said. "And the Victims' Unit will minimise their outreach to micro-outreach. That means all the important work related to outreach activities will still be in the Public Affairs Section, and the Victims' Unit will focus on outreach for the victims."

But the May 18 press release announcing the appointment states: "Dr Helen Jarvis will continue to have oversight of [outreach] work."

Ianuzzi said the distinction between "macro-outreach" and "micro-outreach" was not made at the time of the announcement, adding that he had never heard of it before.

He said he had no problem with Jarvis performing outreach duties that were restricted to her role as head of the Victims' Unit.
Jarvis declined to comment Sunday, saying she had not seen the June 4 letter.

The defence teams for former Khmer Rouge head of state Khieu Samphan and former social minister Ieng Thirith have yet to weigh in on the
appointment. Sa Sovan, Khieu Samphan's co-lawyer, and Phat Pov Seang, Ieng Thirith's co-lawyer, both declined to comment Sunday.

Past writings
Concerns about Jarvis's political views were raised last week by Nuon Chea's defence team, which singled out a 2006 open letter signed by members of the Democratic Socialist Perspective's Leninist Party Faction, including Jarvis.

The letter states: "Against the bourgeoisie and their state agencies we don't respect their laws and their fake moral principles."

Karnavas said via email: "If she has made those comments and if she is an unrepentant Marxist-Leninist with views that are antithetical to the founding laws and principles of the Cambodian Judicial System, then, at a minimum, the inevitable perception that will arise whenever she is called upon to make an important or difficult decision is that she is promoting her revolutionary agenda."

Ianuzzi said the idea of an administrative inquiry was "probably not a bad idea".

Reach Sambath declined to say whether an administrative inquiry was underway.

The June 4 letter also singles out a book Jarvis co-authored in 2004 with the British journalist Tom Fawthrop titled Getting Away with Genocide: Cambodia's Long Struggle Against the Khmer Rouge.

The Ieng Sary defence team argues in the letter that the use of the word "genocide" calls into question Jarvis's "absolute impartiality", a requirement for spokespersons, which the letter argues has been established at other tribunals.

Karnavas said the book indicates that Jarvis "holds some strong opinions which ... call into question her objectivity".

Ianuzzi, who said he had not read the book, seconded that charge, saying, "Certainly it sounds like she has made up her mind about the fact of a genocide."
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Youth No Defense Against Death: Duch

Not even a child at his mother’s side was safe from the Khmer Rouge killing machine, the regime’s chief torturer told tribunal judges Monday.

Kaing Kek Iev, better known as Duch, said his communist superiors, pushing class struggle, “recommended…I must be strong.” “And then I accepted, yielded to the principles of the party, that I must destroy children,” Duch told the UN-backed court.

The former chief of Tuol Sleng prison, the regime’s main torture center, Duch, 66, is facing charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity, torture and murder.

“There is noting to gain by keeping them,” Duch said of children, “and they might take revenge on you.”

When babies and children arrived in Tuol Sleng prison, he killed them because a principle of the party was this fear of retaliation, he said, adding that he believed his subordinates killed child victims by swing them against tree trunks.

“I am criminally responsible for the murders of babies, young children and teenagers,” he said.

Duch stressed on Monday that if one of the four groups of leadership inside Democratic Kampuchea accused someone as the enemy, security guards would have to arrest the accused. When the accused were sent to S-21, they had to be interrogated and then smashed, he explained.

“If you dared to sneak the release [of the accused], you would have had guilt,” he said.

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Contrary Cambodia

Cambodia is a country of contradictions, and tourists can find themselves marvelling at the ancient beauty of the temples of Angkor one day before being horrified by a memorial containing thousands of human skulls at the Khmer Rouge killing fields, on another.

The calm of the countryside is in stark contrast to the intense activity of the capital city Phnom Penh where the lively nightlife hides the country’s flourishing prostitution trade.

Bewildering? Yes. Boring? No. As first-time visitors to this increasingly popular South-East Asian tourist location, we started our journey in Siem Reap, a city which bases its livelihood on its proximity to the glorious temples of Angkor. Our limited time meant we had only two days to explore the 12th century temples, which stretch over a deceptively large area of which the famous Angkor Wat is only one part.

Starting our journey at the walled kingdom of Angkor Thom, our first stop was the Bayon, the King’s state temple. Our childish sense of adventure was delighted by its hidden passages, steep stairways and endless ornate doorways. Next was Ta Prohm, a temple so overgrown by giant tree roots it captures the prehistoric imagination of all who visit, including the Hollywood producers who filmed Lara Croft: Tomb Raider here.

The constant presence of beggars following us was a reminder of the crushing poverty of this country in which four-year-olds ask you to take their photo then demand money; and victims of landmines, less forceful but no less visible, play music outside temples in the hope westerners will donate. It was in that context we arrived at Angkor Wat, the national symbol of Cambodia and the creation of King Suryavarman II. While impressed by its splendour and size, I could not help feeling the glories of the past could not compensate for the problems of the present.

Our second day was filled with temples further afield and shopping at the Psar Chaa markets in the city centre. The markets are a haven of jewellery, silks and wooden ornaments that would never be allowed through Australian customs.

The next day was a six-hour boat ride south down the Tonle Sap river to Phnom Penh. We were unprepared for the circus that greeted us as our boat docked in the capital city. Tuk tuk drivers grabbed our bags without warning and tried to herd us towards their vehicles, promising cheap rooms if we followed. Refusing all offers of assistance did not make us any friends but it enabled us time to breathe and find our own accommodation in the riverfront area of Phnom Penh. Dumping our bags on the top floor of a guesthouse with no lifts, we set out to explore the city.

The Tuol Sleng torture museum was known as the S-21 prison during the reign of the genocidal Pol Pot. A former high school, the museum now houses graphic photos of torture victims, found when it was liberated in 1979, and a series of mug shots of the sad faces of each prisoner who passed through its barbed-wire gates. A 15-minute tuk tuk ride out of the city then took us to the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek, where most of the 17,000 detainees held at S-21 were executed. A glass tower containing 8000 human skulls and their clothes is overwhelming in itself. But walking through the killing fields, treading on human bones and clothing poking through the ground after years of erosion, was more disturbing.

The story of the Cambodian genocide is unavoidable in Phnom Penh. The city was emptied by Khmer Rouge soldiers in 1975, remaining uninhabited until the Vietnamese invaded in 1979. The Khmer Rouge killed an estimated 1.7 million of their fellow countrymen through execution, starvation and disease. The impact was devastating but no one has ever been held to account for the tragedy. The former Khmer Rouge prison chief Duch is currently on trial for war crimes, while the Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen is a former Khmer Rouge commander.

The recovery of the country has been slow, with poverty endemic in most areas. We came face to face with an extreme example of this deprivation with a visit to the Stung Meanchey rubbish dump on the outskirts of the city. Here, hundreds of people live in nauseating squalor, making a measly living from collecting recyclable rubbish.

Our guide was David Fletcher, an English expatriate who runs a not-for-profit organisation that does food runs to the dump two or three times a week with the help of donations from young travellers. He also owns a local bar, mostly patronised by older Western men and young Cambodian women. After seeing our donations go directly into buying fresh food from the markets, we then helped out at the dump by attempting to keep order in the queues while bread rolls and fresh fruit were distributed. The scene was chaotic but our momentary contribution worthwhile.

A visit to neighbouring Laos was also on our itinerary and it couldn’t have been a more different experience. With a short history as a nation-state and a far less violent past, Laos, once a French colony, is known as a place to relax on the often chaotic South-East Asian backpacking route. The capital city Vientiane, has a population of just 300,000. We also visited Pha That Luang, a beautiful temple symbolising the country’s Buddhist influences and its fight for sovereignty.

Our next stop was a town called Vang Vieng, a 3 1 /2-hour bus ride north of Vientiane. Described by Lonely Planet as “soulless”, the whole town seemed to be on permanent school leavers’ week, with restaurants frequented by hung-over tourists playing Friends and Family Guy on a loop.

The main attraction of the town was the infamous tube ride down the Nam Song River. People have apparently died on the trip so it was with trepidation we hired our tyre tubes and jumped on a tuk tuk that drove us to the river bank. There we were greeted by pumping music, bars along the river serving $US3 ($3.60) buckets of cocktails, flying foxes and water slides. The recommended two-hour trip down the river took us six hours and, needless to say, was memorable.

A more cultural experience was awaiting us at our next stopover. Luang Prabang, a hairy eighthour bus trip north of Vang Vieng, is the former royal capital of Laos. A nature lover’s paradise, it is Unesco World Heritage-listed and attracts many eco-tourists.

Our adventures in this beautiful town and its surrounds included a visit to the stunning Tat Kuang Si waterfall and a kayaking trip to the Pak Ou Caves which contain thousands of Buddha images.

The future of this mainly undeveloped country rests heavily on its rapidly increasing share of the tourist trade. But its emphasis on eco-tourism will hopefully prevent the destruction of its largely untouched wilderness and unique national spirit.

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Global corruption survey: Ukraine has highest level of corruption among Newly Independent States

International civil rights organization Transparency International has launched a new Global Barometer, where Ukraine placed the last among the New Independent States with an index of 4.3 index.

In the report, which was made public in Brussels, the following corruption indexes are provided: Armenia – 3.1, Azerbaijan – 3.3, Belarus - 3.4, Georgia – 3.1, Moldova – 3.5, Mongolia – 3.7, Russia – 3.9 and Ukraine – 4.3.

Among the European Union and other countries the corruption index was calculated for Austria (2.8), Bulgaria (4), Czechia (3.4), Denmark (2.4), Finland (2.5), Greece (3.7), Hungary (3.8), Iceland (3.5), Israel (3.5), Italy (3.7), Luxemburg (3.3), The Netherlands (2.6), Norway (3.1), Poland (3.5), Portugal (3.4), Romania (4), Spain (3.2), Switzerland (2.8), The United Kingdom (3.3), the United States (3.7) and Canada (3.2).

The survey, which was held from October 2008 to February 2009 in 69 countries, polled 73,132 respondents.

Most of the respondents were greatly concerned by the growth of corruption in the private sector, which increased by 8% if compared to results of 2003. Many respondents think that bribery is used to influence politics and the regulatory sector for the benefit of companies. This opinion is widespread in the newly independent states, the Americas, the West Balkans and Turkey.

Most of those polled said that they consider political parties as the most corrupt domestic institution.

More than one out of every 10 respondents had to pay bribes last in the last 12 months. Four out of ten bribe-givers said the bribe was 10% of their annual income.

Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cambodia, Cameroon, Iraq, Liberia, Sierra-Leone and Uganda top list of countries affected by low-level bribery. The results show that people with low income pay bribes more frequently than the rich ones when they deal with the police, law, land sector and education.

On the whole, the results show that the state anti-corruption measures are ineffective.

When asked what sector they consider the most corrupt, most people said it was politics (29%). The rest named state officials (26%), parliament (16%), business and private sector (14%), legal institutions (9%) and the mass media (6%).
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