Friday, February 22, 2008

This Month at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal

February has seen several interesting developments at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), which is finally beginning to look like a serious court, with hearings and investigations, and . . .
Defense Tactics
Just yesterday, Jacques Verges (aka the "Devil's Advocate") announced that his client Khieu Samphan, the president during the Khmer Rouge regime, will no longer cooperate with the court. Samphan is apparently refusing to speak to court officials until the thousands of pages of evidence against him -- presumably written in his native tongue, Khmer -- are translated into French, the language spoken by Verges. This is perhaps the ultimate irony from Samphan, the head of a regime that killed those who spoke a foreign language because such individuals were viewed as "class enemies." Moreover, Verges demanded a translation of the court documents, which are in English, into French, so that he can adequately defend his client.
Victim Participation
In a more heartening development, for the first time in any international criminal proceeding, victims participated as civil parties in the public hearing of the pre-trial detention of Nuon Chea, head of the Khmer Rouge security committee. Theary Seng (pictured at right), who at age 7, along with her 4-year-old brother, was "shackled and held under inhumane conditions in a Khmer Rouge prison", confronted Chea in court, asking him who was responsible for these abuses and the deaths of her parents. Under the ECCC's internal rules, civil parties have the right to participate in the investigation, be represented by a lawyer, call witnesses and question the accused at trial, and claim reparations. Victims can also participate in more traditional roles -- as witnesses and by providing the prosecutors with factual information. The court is currently processing over 500 complaints providing volumes of information for the investigatory phase of the trials.
Expanded Budget
But of course, with this progress comes the request for more funds. While capping the number of expected prosecutions at eight, the court has tripled its budget estimate, seeking to extend the lifespan of the court from December 2009 to March 2011 and to nearly double its staffing levels to 530 people. While the court seems to be moving past the delays that plagued its early years, it still suffers from past allegations of corruption, and additional funding proposals will need to provide thorough and convincing explanations of how the court will avoid such problems in the future.

1 comment:

Diane Marie Amann said...

Thanks so much for the update, Jaya. It's good to see that this tribunal is finally taking shape as, well, a tribunal. Vergès' tactics are no surprise. The rights of the internationally accused would be so much better served were these defendants to turn not to grandstanders but to legal-eagle defenders determined to force the prosecution to its proof.
Most interesting was your mention of the use of parties civiles. Look forward to seeing how that plays out.