Another busy month of criticism for the ECCC

Posted by khmernews on December 19, 2006

A review of national and international press articles concerning the Khmer Rouge Tribunal in December 2006

This month the ECCC has seen criticism on the slow progress of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal and even more criticism on interference by the government. As the forecasted date for the start of the trials draws near, the Cambodian and International press and the international community seem to be more and more disbelieving both that the trials will take place within the allocated  three year period and that they will find justice for the victims of the genocidal regime.

Criticism surrounded a variety of issues including the inability of the judicial officials to decide on the internal rules of the ECCC at their 2nd plenary session, the interference of the Cambodian Bar Association in a training organized by the International Bar Association which resulted in a canceling of the training, the death of Pinochet and the fear that senior leaders of the Khmer Rouge may evade standing trial in the same way as the former Chilean dictator and most recently a letter by Sok An requesting negotiation with the UN to resolve the dispute to clarify the role of the international judicial officers which appears to be another stalling tactic.

Even the international NGO, Human Rights Watch said that “The Cambodian government must end its interference in the mixed national and international tribunal set up to prosecute crimes by senior Khmer Rouge leaders and others most responsible for Khmer Rouge crimes.” Asia director, Brad Adams, even went so far as to say that the “Political interference has brought the whole process to a screeching halt.”   Local newspaper Moneaksekar Khmer reported on the 12th of December 2007 that “Currently, Cambodian people are bored with the political show so if the government wants to find justice for the Khmer Rouge victims, it should allow the tribunal to do its work independently, and shouldn’t exercise its influence on the tribunal.”

Another local newspaper, Rasmei Kampuchea, who spoke with Dr. Helen Jarvis (press section of the ECCC) after the revelation by the court that they had not been able to adopt the internal rules of the court reported that. ‘Ms. Helen Jarvis, an adviser to the government’s tribunal taskforce told… that Cambodian and international judicial officers are continuing to meet to try and find a solution to these problems. “We hope that the cases will be submitted made in January or February, and the trial process will start a few months after – before June 2007,” she added. “We have not yet changed the schedule.”’ Ms. Helen Jarvis apparently also asserted that there was no evidence to support the accusations made by Human Rights Watch.

According to the ECCC at a recent NGO update meeting it is too early to tell if the recent failure to adopt the rules is going to delay the whole process. In an e-mail, Peter Foster of the ECCC wrote “In the original plan, it was hoped that cases would be submitted by the Co-Prosecutors to the Co-Investigation Judges in early 2007, with trials beginning in mid-2007 (about a year and a half into the budgeted life of the court.)” Therefore progress is apparently still on track at the moment. Plans to work on the internal rules of the court in sub-committees and finalise them in late January, 2007 before the 3rd plenary session takes place should run smoothly.

It therefore seems that most of the issues can be overcome, but what of the fears that the trial is constantly being stalled by the Government and that it might not be possible to smooth the hiccups that keep appearing? Surely the latest development in the story – a letter to the UN in New York by a cabinet minister demanding re-negotiation between the Government and the UN is just another stalling technique ? Does this indicate that the few senior leaders of the Khmer Rouge left will escape justice in the same way as Pinochet ? On December 13th, Myint Zan of the Jordan Times wrote “Will these ageing Khmer Rouge leaders (Nuon Chea, Khieu Samphan  and Ieng Sary) be brought to court and eventually held legally accountable or will they escape justice, like Milosevic, or even live to a ripe old age and die in peace, as Pinochet, while the political and legal delays and wranglings go on and on? …I predict that the fate of these former Khmer Rouge leaders will be such that Saddam would envy. And they, too, might secretly wish for and eventually achieve what Pinochet had just managed to do.”

Let’s hope, for the sake of the Cambodian people that he is wrong.


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