International Justice Monitor

A project of the Open Society Justice Initiative

The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts in Cambodia: Lessons in Human Rights Ignored by Cambodian Government

This update on the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) notes with concern the current climate of repression of human rights and political freedom in Cambodia.  It also addresses progress on Case 002 and delays in completion of the investigations in Cases 003 and 004.

Current Human Rights Violations

The ECCC was designed to deliver justice for crimes committed during the Khmer Rouge period and promote much needed improvement in Cambodia with regard to respect for human rights and basic rule of law principles. The Open Society Justice Initiative has written about ways in which the ECCC’s positive impact on national judicial processes has been limited because of the government’s political failure to support reform.

Actions of the government over the … Continue Reading

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Potential Hazard: ECCC Trial Chamber Considers Expanded Use of Evidence Tainted by Torture

The Khmer Rouge regime was notorious for torturing confessions from persons considered to be enemies. The collection of written confessions recovered from Toul Sleng, the most infamous of the Khmer Rouge torture and execution prisons, runs over 40,000 pages. The ongoing trial at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) against Nuon Chea, known as “Brother Number Two,” and Khieu Samphan, Head of State during the regime, includes allegations of torture as a part of crimes against humanity, war crimes, and genocide. Both the prosecution and the defense have asked the Trial Chamber to rule on the admissibility of evidence obtained in connection with torture committed by the Khmer Rouge.

The ECCC is mandated to apply international law principles, … Continue Reading

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ECCC Judicial Appointments: An Opportunity for the UN to Translate its Aspirations into Tangible Outcomes

Clair Duffy is an International Legal Consultant and former Khmer Rouge Tribunal Monitor for the Open Society Justice Initiative (late 2010 to early 2013). The views expressed herein are the author’s own views and do not necessarily reflect those of any organization with whom the author has previously been affiliated.


The United Nations has a series of Security Council Resolutions stressing the imperative of women in decision making positions in peace and security issues (see especially 1325 (2000), 1820 (2008), 1888 (2009), 1960 (2010), 2106 (2013), and 2122 (2013)). Just last month, on the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action—a global blueprint for the empowerment of women—Executive Director of UN Women, … Continue Reading

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Preserving History: The Importance of Archives at the Extraordinary Chambers

The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) currently faces pressing challenges, including the health of Khieu Samphan, an accused along with Nuon Chea in the current Case 002/02; and the apparent refusal of Cambodian Judicial Police to carry out court orders. But the court also faces a number of long term challenges. Some of these, such as fundraising, are well known but others aren’t as obvious and don’t receive sufficient attention. One often overlooked long term challenge is preserving the ECCC’s archives.

One of the central reasons for creating the ECCC is to help establish the historical record of Khmer Rouge era crimes and increase our understanding of that era. The ECCC’s archives are a critical component of that … Continue Reading

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New Year, Same Problems at ECCC

I have been working for justice in Cambodia since before the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) was created, and a lot has happened in the courtroom and in Cambodian society in that time. But on a recent trip to Phnom Penh, I was struck by a profound sense of unease: for as much progress as the court has made, its shortcomings and weaknesses continue to hamper its effectiveness—and increasingly, people are noticing.

Two pressing issues currently illustrate the court’s weaknesses: the boycott of Case 002 by defense counsel, and the failure to bring suspects to court in Cases 003 and 004. These situations feed the growing sense of cynicism and hopelessness about the court expressed by many Cambodians … Continue Reading

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Why Try Khmer Rouge Leaders Twice?

Nuon Chea is 88 years old. Khieu Samphan is 84. They are the most senior surviving officials of the Khmer Rouge, the regime that ruled Cambodia from 1975 to 1979 and is responsible for the deaths of up to two million Cambodians. Both men have already been tried, found guilty of crimes against humanity, and sentenced to life imprisonment (those sentences are currently being appealed).

So why is the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (or ECCC, the tribunal jointly established by the UN and government of Cambodia) trying them again, for a second set of crimes? Why is a court that has spent over $200 million to find three people guilty actually holding a second trial for two of … Continue Reading

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Justice Delayed is Still Justice

The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) issued the first trial judgment today in a series of legal proceedings relating to the two surviving senior leaders of the Khmer Rouge. The case pertained to events beginning in 1975 and the accused, now both in their 80s, have been convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment.

I worked as a legal officer analyzing the evidence and the legal charges filed against the accused in 2009. Even then, I wasn’t sure if this day would come. The advanced age of the defendants could have led to the premature conclusion of the entire proceedings, which occurred when the case was closed against a former co-accused, Ieng Sary who died in 2013, and his … Continue Reading

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