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Head of Tribunal’s Victims Unit To Retire

The head of the Khmer Rouge tribunal’s Victims Unit announced Monday she was retiring, becoming the second person to leave the office in a little over a year.

The Victims Unit is responsible for coordinating testimony and other documentation from survivors and families of victims of the Khmer Rouge, as part of the UN-backed court’s efforts of national reconciliation.

Helen Jarvis, who had been head of the unit since April 2009, said she would leave June 30, as part of a “normal” retirement.

“I am 64,” she said. “I wish to live with my family.”

Jarvis, an Australian national, had been an adviser to the government’s Khmer Rouge tribunal task force as it negotiated formation of the court with the UN. She was with the tribunal from its inception and had been a court spokeswoman before taking the job at the Victims Unit.

The unit has so far collected 4,004 victim complaints, as the tribunal moves toward the atrocity crimes trial of a group of aging Khmer Rouge leaders.

“Her leaving coincides with a busy moment at the [tribunal], especially for what is related to the participation of the civil parties,” said Long Panhavuth, a court monitor for the Open Society Justice Initiative of Cambodia.

“We call for urgent preparations for a new director of this unit, to ensure the full participation of victims and ensure their interest,” he said.

Lat Ky, who observes the court for the rights group Adhoc, said Jarvis’ replacement is so far not known.

Tribunal spokesman Reach Sambath, however, said the court’s administration is now considering a replacement.