State Department Investigation Clears Kiernan of Anonymous Allegations Concerning Cambodian Genocide Program

An investigation by the U.S. Department of State Office of the Inspector General into anonymous allegations of financial mismanagement of Yale University’s Cambodian Genocide Program disclosed no evidence of wrongdoing and has been closed, the University announced today.

“I knew the State Department’s investigation would find the allegations to be unfounded, not only because they were completely untrue, but because Yale has kept such scrupulous and unassailable records of this important program’s operations,” said Yale History Professor Ben Kiernan, the founder and director of the program.

The Cambodian Genocide Program (CGP) has received research grants totaling over $1.5 million from the State Department since 1994 to document the genocide committed by Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia from 1975 to 1979.

“Throughout the period of the investigation, we have continued to document the crimes of the Khmer Rouge. I have been cleared, but the Khmer Rouge have not,” Kiernan said of his exoneration. Yale received notification of the closing of the investigation from the State Department Inspector General today.

The State Department initiated the investigation of the CGP after U.S. Representative Tom Campbell of California wrote a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Madeline Albright last May requesting that she examine a complaint from a constituent whose identity was not disclosed. The anonymous source had alleged wrongdoing on the part of Kiernan.

Yale cooperated fully with the State Department’s investigation, and its own review of the management of the grants to the program found no impropriety, said Deputy Provost Charles H. Long. “It was unfortunate that a highly successful program of international significance was the object of reckless and unfounded allegations,” Long said. “It is a credit to Professor Kiernan and his colleagues that they have continued to advance the program’s important goals of documenting the genocide by the Khmer Rouge regime, researching Cambodian history during the regime, and training Cambodian scholars, legal officers and human rights workers.”

Yale Professor Robin Winks, chairman of the Department of History, said, “I, like other of Professor Kiernan’s colleagues, have been confident that the investigation would fully vindicate Ben Kiernan’s position. Anyone who knew him at all well, or who had troubled to read his work, can have had no doubts. To historians, it is particularly troubling that charges would be made anonymously. This is the ultimate form of cowardice in an environment which relies upon explicit sourcing of statements.”

“It is extremely difficult to deal with anonymous and unsubstantiated charges,” added Professor Gustav Ranis, director of the Yale Center for International and Area Studies, the Yale home of the CGP. “I have been impressed with Professor Kiernan’s able leadership over the years and am pleased to see that the Department of State has cleared him of any wrongdoing.”

In providing additional funding for the program last year, the State Department wrote, “We view the project as highly successful thus far, and believe it important that the program be enabled to complete its task of investigating, documenting and analyzing the Cambodian genocide.”

The United Nations has recently appointed a distinguished Group of Experts to investigate the documents on the Khmer Rouge genocide collected by the CGP since 1994. The legal team, headed by the former Governor-General of Australia, Sir Ninian Stephen, will begin its work in Cambodia on November 14.

Kiernan has been studying the Khmer Rouge and documenting the Cambodian genocide for twenty-five years. In his latest book, “The Pol Pot Regime” (Yale University Press, 1996), he estimated that 1.7 million Cambodians perished from 1975 to 1979.

The CGP’s highly praised World Wide Website containing photographs, maps, translations, and four databases documenting the Cambodian genocide can be visited at www.yale.edu/cgp.

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Tom Conroy: tom.conroy@yale.edu, 203-432-1345