Historic first conviction in the ECCC: Further efforts required for the realization of justice
On 26 July 2010, the Extraordinary Chambers in
the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) passed down its judgment for the first case it
has examined, Case 001. The tribunal found that the accused Kaing Guek Eav (alias Duch, 67), a former chief of Tuol
Sleng detention center, was guilty of committing crimes against humanity (among
other crimes), and sentenced him to 35 years imprisonment. In addition, the tribunal
decided to publish statements of apology that the accused made on the ECCC
was established and began to operate in 2006 for the purpose of trying senior
leaders of the Khmer Rouge and those who were most responsible for committing
mass killings, torture, and other grave human rights violations during the
regime of Pol Pot from April 1975 to January 1979. Human Rights Now (HRN), a
Tokyo-based human rights organization, recognizes that in almost the 30 years
that have passed since the human rights violations were committed, the ECCC’s
first judgment is an important first step in overcoming the history of
impunity, pursuing responsibility for human rights abuses that have been
committed in Cambodia, and realizing justice for victims of the regime.
like to acknowledge that the tribunal continues to address problems
it faced at the outset and that these should continue to engage
with these challenges. However, HRN recognizes that the on-site process
of, and the participation of many victims in the hybrid tribunal,
which is comprised of both local Cambodian and supporting UN staff,
is an historical achievement. Every Cambodian citizen should play
an active role in the peace building process, and the tribunal proceedings,
which are held at the site where human rights violations occurred
and which were carried out with the participation of victims, have been an important
contribution to that process. Additionally, it holds
significance in that it breaks new ground in international criminal procedure
for trials of grave human rights violations. HRN believes that international
community should recognize the importance of holding the tribunal in Cambodia
to the peace building process.
However, HRN notes that the reparation measures
ordered by the ECCC were limited to two measures. Firstly, the ECCC decided to
compile all statements of apology and acknowledgments of responsibility made by
the accused during the course of the trial, and this compilation will be posted
onto the ECCC website after the judgment becomes final. Secondly, the tribunal made
a declaration that Civil Parties, who participated in the proceedings, had suffered
harm as a direct consequence of the crimes for which the accused was convicted.
HRN hopes that the ECCC’s appeal mechanism will duly examine whether or not these
reparation measures were adequate under the rules of the ECCC, given the nature
of the damage suffered by victims. HRN further hopes that that the ECCC will
grant other types of reparation measures based on the specific facts of each
case in future trials.
Since the establishment of the tribunal in
2006, HRN has monitored the tribunal’s operation focusing on the issue of victims,
and has called on the tribunal to be a place where justice for victims can be
achieved. To that end, HRN has made policy recommendations for the court. In
particular, HRN has made recommendations calling on the participation system of
victims as parties to court proceedings, and has worked towards the realization
of those recommendations. As a result, the ECCC introduced a Civil Party
system, and victims as Civil Parties participated in Case 001. Further, HRN
released a report and suggestions to address practical issues related to mass
victims litigation, so as to make victims’ participation in the proceedings
effective. HRN welcomes the current situation in which victims, who feared that
human rights violations would be committed again, are breaking the many years
of silence and starting to speak of their suffering. This is an extremely
important process for building peace in Cambodian society.
the trials of senior leaders in the Khmer Rouge Regime have not yet begun, even
though they are alleged to bear the most responsibility for the commission of numerous
human rights violations during the regime. In July 2007, the Co-Investigating
Judges started judicial investigations of Case 002 involving four senior
leaders: Nuon Chea, Ieng Sary, Khieu Samphan and Ieng Thirith. However, their
trials have not yet commenced. Considering the long periods of detention and the
old age of the four accuseds, the delay of Case 002 is not acceptable. Cases 003
and 004 are still in the initial stages of judicial investigation.
like to emphasize that the purposes of the ECCC, namely, officially bringing to
light the systematic human rights violations, realization of justice for
victims, bringing an end to impunity, and preventing the re-occurence of human
rights violations in the future, will not be realized unless those who were most
responsible for the commission of the violations are indicted and held accountable
by judicial decisions.
on all actors involved with the ECCC to put all their efforts into ensuring
that those who bear the most responsibility for the abuses are indicted and
tried without delay.
the international community, in particular major donor countries such as Japan,
to contribute to establishing the rule of law in Cambodian society by supporting
expeditious trial procedures and enhancing the operational efficiency of the tribunal.
The international community must continue to monitor the ECCC’s operation to
ensure preventing corruption, and should express objection to any political
intervention into the court’s procedures so as not to lead to the delay.
The ECCC has opened the door for victims
to claim moral and collective reparation, and HRN calls on the international community
to support in more concrete ways, the realization and implementation of those
measures of reparation.