International Justice Monitor

A project of the Open Society Justice Initiative

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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Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan Found Guilty of Crimes against Humanity

New York (August 7, 2014)—Today’s conviction for crimes against humanity of the two most senior surviving leaders of Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge regime marks a historic milestone both for international justice, and for Cambodia’s effort to confront its violent past.

Judges at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) sentenced both Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan to life imprisonment, after a trial focused on atrocities committed during the evacuation of Cambodian cities and town in 1975, and the executions of civil servants and military officers from the defeated regime.

Nuon Chea was the second most senior leader in the Khmer Rouge regime that ruled Cambodia from 1975 to 1979; Khieu Samphan served both as foreign minister and as head of state.

The … Continue Reading

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Khmer Rouge Tribunal Urged to Step Up Outreach

NEW YORK—New research by the Open Society Justice Initiative has highlighted the need for the Khmer Rouge tribunal in Cambodia and its main donors to support renewed efforts to keep the Cambodian people informed about its work.

Preliminary results from over 100 interviews conducted in rural and urban areas of Cambodia show that support for the tribunal, known as the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, has slightly diminished since similar surveys conducted the first two years of its operations.

However, the research also suggests that one of the main reasons for this diminished support is a lack of knowledge about the current status of the trial of the two most senior surviving Khmer Rouge leaders, Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea. … Continue Reading

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Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge Tribunal Must Protect Suspects’ Rights

NEW YORK—The Open Society Justice Initiative is urging the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) to ensure the proper protection of the rights of suspects who are the focus of two court investigations that have not yet come to trial.

The investigations into the cases, known as 003 and 004, are being led by Mark Harmon, the tribunal’s international co-investigating judge. The Cambodian co-investigating judge that Harmon is supposed to work with has refused to cooperate with the effort, while the Cambodian government has said it does not want the cases to proceed.

The two cases were first transferred to the co-investigating judges in September 2009, after an initial investigation by the tribunal’s co-prosecutors. Media reports have said the investigations … Continue Reading

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Decisions Needed Now to Ensure Fullest Possible Trial for Khmer Rouge Leaders

NEW YORK—The Open Society Justice Initiative is urging the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) to take the necessary steps now to ensure that the trial process of two of the most senior surviving former leaders of the Khmer Rouge covers the full scope of charges against them.

The two defendants, Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan, have so far only faced charges in a trial focused on the evacuation of Phnom Penh in April, 1975, and events at an execution site outside the city; given the mass of the alleged crimes and the advanced age of the defendants, the court opted to defer other charges to one or more subsequent trials.

Khieu Samphan served as Khmer Rouge foreign minister and … Continue Reading

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Planning and Leadership Now Needed at Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia

The Open Society Justice Initiative has published a new position paper which looks at the challenges facing the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), as the first trial of two former senior Khmer Rouge leaders, Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan, moves towards its conclusion. The Open Society Justice Initiative is calling on all involved with the court to display honest leadership and to respond appropriately to the evident constraints on time, funding and political support that it now faces.

The ECCC was established in 2004 by a joint agreement between the United Nations and the government of Cambodia, and uses a mix of international and local judges and staff. It began proceedings in 2007.

The tribunal has successfully completed one case, … Continue Reading

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The Funding Challenge for Reparations in Cambodia

The Khmer Rouge tribunal in Cambodia was the first international court to give victims a formal voice in a major atrocities trial. Victims of the Khmer Rouge mass crimes committed in Cambodia from 1975 to 1979 are civil parties to the trial process, participating with many of the same rights as the prosecutors and the defense. They may also request the court to order reparations. In Case 002.1, nearing completion on crimes against humanity charges against the surviving senior leaders of the regime, 3,866 victims have been admitted as civil parties.

The ECCC has adapted the Cambodian domestic civil party participation system to address both the logistics of dealing with the large number of victims involved, and the fact that the … Continue Reading

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Troubled Khmer Rouge Investigation Raises New Transparency Concerns

Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge tribunal, officially known as the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), has been steadily continuing with the trial of two former senior Khmer Khmer Rouge leaders, Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan, even as an investigation continues into two further possible cases, known as Cases 003 and 004.

The current trial remains beset by concerns about the health of the ageing defendants, and Nuon Chea in particular, following the death of co-defendant Ieng Sary and a ruling that his wife Ieng Thirith is not mentally fit to stand trial.

But a new issue is now facing the ECCC (which combines Cambodian and international judges, court officials and staff) linked once again to the persistent question of whether these … Continue Reading

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