International Justice Monitor

A project of the Open Society Justice Initiative

Time to Acknowledge Obstruction of Khmer Rouge Prosecutions

NEW YORK—International officials working with the UN-backed Khmer Rouge tribunal in Cambodia must publicly acknowledge that the Cambodian government is now deliberately obstructing the court’s work, or risk undermining its integrity and reputation, according to a new report from the Open Society Justice Initiative released this week.

In its latest survey of recent developments at the court, the Justice Initiative highlights the failure of Cambodia’s judicial police to execute an arrest warrant against either of two individuals charged on March 3 with war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Subsequently, the court announced that the two accused, Im Chaem and Meas Muth, had been charged in absentia. This procedure is not provided for in the rules of the court, officially known as the … Continue Reading

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Cambodia Must Cooperate with New Khmer Rouge Prosecution Process

The Open Society Justice Initiative is urging the Cambodian government to fully meet its commitments to the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, following the tribunal’s decision to charge two alleged former Khmer Rouge senior leaders with crimes against humanity and war crimes.

The court announced on Tuesday, March 3, that the international investigating judge has issued charges against Meas Muth, the former Khmer Rouge naval commander, and Im Chaem, a senior regional commander.

The charges stem from a long running investigation that has been consistently opposed by Prime Minister Hun Sen and other senior government figures. The investigation has also been resisted by Cambodian judges who share investigative responsibilities with international judges on the hybrid tribunal.

The charges against Meas Muth … 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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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


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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