Khmernews

Open Letter to the Members of the ECCC Plenary and the Rules Committee

Posted by khmernews on June 5, 2009

Phnom Penh, 3 June 2009

Open Letter to the Members of the ECCC Plenary and the Rules Committee
Honorable Judges of the ECCC,

At the occasion of the ECCC Rules Committee Meeting which is due to convene this week, the Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee (CHRAC), a coalition of 21 NGOs working in the fields of human rights, democracy and the rule of law, urges all members of the Plenary and the
Rules Committee to address now the question of reparations for victims of the Khmer Rouge regime. Although reparations are an issue that could be expected to wait until the end of a trial they need to be considered now in order to ensure that the foundations are in place to ensure that an order for meaningful reparations can be made.Reparations are today a core element in a more victim-oriented process of justice to redress mass crimes. Thirty years after the end of the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia, the establishment of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) provides an opportunity that something is done to address the harm that victims of the regime suffered. Therefore, it is a laudable development that the ECCC is the first hybrid tribunal with a specific
reparations mandate.

Rule 23 of the ECCC Internal Rules allows victims to seek “collective and moral reparations”. The same rule specifies that these reparations “shall be awarded against, and be borne by the convicted person”. CHRAC wishes to remind that “collective and moral reparations” will also need to be paid for. All five defendants before the Court have claimed to be indigent in order to
qualify for legal aid. As it currently stands, this provision would drastically limit the potential scope of any Court-ordered reparations. Even a limited reparations award, such as an order to publish the judgment of the court, as suggested in Rule 23, 12 (a), would be rendered unenforceable given the defendants lack of funds or assets to pay for such an award. Therefore without an amendment to the Internal Rules no reparations can be awarded to the victims of the crimes of the Khmer Rouge regime.

According to a recent country-wide survey among the Cambodian people conducted by the Human Rights Center, University of California, Berkeley, 88 percent of all respondents believe that it is important to provide symbolic (moral) reparations to victims of the Khmer Rouge or their family.

Taking these views into account, CHRAC is compelled to express its concern that the Court has so far not taken any action on this important issue despite various submissions in the past from civil society, civil party lawyers and the ECCC Victims Unit. If the Court takes its reparations mandate seriously, it should – as a first step – consider amending Rule 23 to allow for voluntary contributions to fund reparations ordered by the Court in case of indigence of the convicted persons. Only such an opening clause would provide a realistic perspective for the implementation of “collective and moral reparations”.

Whilst the ECCC reparations mandate is limited, it provides a narrow window of opportunity to consider meaningful and feasible ways to put reparations into practice. The time for action is now, and CHRAC and its member organizations are ready to assist the Court in several ways to make reparations happen, through and beyond the ECCC.

Therefore, CHRAC urges the Plenary and the Rules Committee of the ECCC to:
1. Make reparations a main agenda item at the next Plenary Session;
2. Amend Rule 23 of the Internal Rules as to allow for voluntary contributions to fund reparations in case of indigence of the convicted persons;
3. Support credible action to investigate into the assets and property of the accused persons in order to recover potential resources to fund reparations orders;
4. Elaborate at an early stage on how to administer and implement ECCC reparations orders.

Further information, please contact:
Mr. Sok Sam Oeun Chairman of CHRAC/Director of CDP Tel: 012 901 199
Mr. Thun Saray President of ADHOC Tel: 016 880 509
Mr. Hang Chhaya Executive Director of KID Tel: 012 575 883
Mr. Im Sophea Acting Executive Director of CSD Tel: 016 888 552
Ms. Say Vathany Executive Director of CWCC Tel: 092 993 558

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