Opening of the trial in Case 002

On the eve of the hearings dedicated to the examination of evidence in the trial in Case 002 and after the first week of hearings of the Case 002 trial before the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), dedicated to opening statements, FIDH, ADHOC and CJA welcome the opening of this historic trial – a trial that will shed light on the grave international crimes committed by three former Khmer Rouge senior leaders, Ieng Sary, Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan.

“This trial is of utmost importance for victims, who cannot mourn as long as justice is not done. If we forget the past, the future has not much sense” said Mrs. Ros Chuor-Si Y, Civil Party from France participating in Case 002 and who attended the first hearings. “It was crucial for me to hear the Co-Prosecutors present the crimes I suffered and to hear the accused respond,” she added. Civil Party from the US diaspora, Sophany Bay, concurred: “After the hearing, I feel hope that the Prosecutors can find justice for survivors.”

“The time for truth and justice has finally come for the nearly 4000 Civil Parties participating in this trial and who have waited more than 30 years to see justice done,” said Patrick Baudouin, FIDH Honorary President and Civil Parties lawyer in Case 002. “The judges of this precedent setting tribunal have an important responsibility towards victims, whose rights are at the center of the mandate of the Court,” added Marie Guiraud, Civil Party lawyer and member of FIDH’s Litigation Action Group.

However, several recent developments raise some concern amongst Civil Parties. Civil Parties from FIDH, ADHOC and CJA were disappointed by the Trial Chamber decision not to allow Civil Party lawyers to make opening remarks, an opportunity that would have highlighted the integral voice of victims in this historic trial. Civil Parties from the French and US diaspora attending the first week of the hearings shared their expectations and views of the trial at a conference organized by FIDH, ADHOC and CJA in Phnom Penh on 21 November 2011. Although the Civil Parties remain invested and hopeful for participation in Case 002, they were deeply disappointed not to be able to express themselves through their lawyers at this stage of the hearings.

Moreover, the sequencing of the trial in Case 002 into different “mini trials,” each focusing on a different portion of the indictment, runs the risk of excluding approximately 75% of Civil Parties from participating in the first trial. Our organizations agreed in principle with the severance of the case due to the age of the accused but were discontent with limited selection of crimes as they do not reflect the number of admitted Civil Parties per crime/crime site and do not properly show the gravity of the crimes committed during the Democratic Kampuchea regime.

In addition, on 17 November 2011, the Trial Chamber declared Ieng Thirith unfit to stand trial and severed the proceedings against her from the three other accused. “The decision on the unfitness to stand trial of Ieng Thirith only a few days before the opening of the Case 002 trial is difficult to understand for many of the Civil Parties. Many of the participants pointed out that if the trial had started sooner, Ieng Thirith could have been forced to account for her crimes. This shows that justice delayed is often justice denied,” says CJA lawyer Nushin Sarkarati, representing Civil Parties from the US diaspora.

The following hearings dedicated to the examination of evidence are scheduled to take place from 5 to 16 December 2011, focusing on the first segment of Case 002 trial, in application of the severance order of the Court.