Khmer Rouge Tribunal Witnesses Worry about Their Safety, Security and even Revenge Taken on Them

Posted by khmernews on March 30, 2007

Witnesses of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal are concerning about their security, especially about the revenge by the former Khmer Rouges.

Since the witnesses hesitate to attend the Extraordinary Chamber in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), the civil society organizations analyzed that the situation will affect the legal procedures in such a hybrid tribunal.

It is reported that some victims of the Khmer Rouge regime who have been selected by the tribunal co-prosecutors to be the witnesses in the prosecution of the former Khmer Rouge leaders are worrying about their security so much.

For instance, a witness who was a victim in Toul Sleng prison of the Khmer Rouge regime and who has been waiting for the trial said at the Documentation Center of Cambodia (DC-Cam) that he was afraid that families of the people whom he mentioned would hate and take revenge against him.

Another victim said that he was afraid of being criticized for being a witness in the Khmer Rouge tribunal.
However, the apprehension of the witnesses of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal is reasonable. According to a study research by the DC-Cam, both witness and perpetrators have been concerned.

It is said that the revenge between the victims and perpetrators once happened violently when the Chinese-backed Khmer Rouge regime was overthrown by the Vietnamese soldiers. However, now there has been no more revenge between victims and bloodthirsty killers.

Still, some people said that the concerns and trauma are still remaining in the feeling of every Cambodian victim of the Khmer Rouge regime.

Meanwhile, the concerns and hesitation of the victims will obstruct the progress of the Khmer Rouge tribunal if the Phnom Penh government cannot timely find a key meant to strengthen the spirit of the victims.

Concerning this problem, Youk Chhang, director of the DC-Cam, said that there will be problems for the Khmer Rouge trial if there is a problem in selecting witnesses. He pointed out that although we have witnesses, we still have problem if they do not want to attend the court. “To build a case, we need 4-5 documents including evidential documents, photos, documentary films, and oral evidence. And if witnesses do not attend the court because of their apprehension, the case will be weak,” demonstrated Youk Chhang.

As the internal rules of the ECCC have not been adopted, there have not been any programs to protect witnesses seen yet.

It should be remembered that in late 2006 the Khmer Rouge Tribunal co-prosecutors gathered witnesses—at least some witnesses—so that the victims could prepare themselves for the trial.

Although there is a claim that the Khmer Rouge tribunal will not fail, there have been a lot of obstacles placed in its progress so far.

It should be noticed that the rules committee of the ECCC have met since last week to solve the disagreements over some important issues such as rights of suspects to choose lawyers; pre-trial chamber’s problems; disagreements between Cambodian and international judges concerning the prosecution, investigation, and trial; witness and victim protection; and rights of non-Cambodian defense lawyers.
Skilbeck, head of the non-Cambodian lawyers, claimed that these are the problems that are expected to be solved at the end of the discussion. It means we will have  fair trials in the Khmer Rouge Tribunal.
However, Cambodian Bar Association (CBA), led by Ky Tech, demanded that interested non-Cambodian lawyers in the tribunal have to pay the registration fee of USD500 to become a member of CBA. Moreover, they will have to spend another amount of USD2000 if they are chosen to be a defense lawyer. Furthermore, they have to spend USD200 monthly for the membership. All in all, this is seen as obstruction to the progress of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal since the CBA care more about the money.

(Informal Translation)
-Extracted from Moneaksekar Khmer. Vol. 14, #3110. Thursday, March 15, 2007.


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