On November 21, 2011, the trial in Case 002 before the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), targeting four senior Khmer Rouge leaders for crimes against humanity, genocide and war crimes, is opening. The Center for Justice and Accountability, in cooperation with the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC) took the opportunity to highlight lessons learned from the previous trial and proceedings, especially as regards civil party participation and reparation, and to leave the floor to victims from Cambodia and from the diaspora to express their expectations for this important trial.
The conference, entitled “Opening of the trial in ECCC Case 002: Expectations of Victims from Here and Abroad,” featured opening statements from Mr. Patrick Baudouin, FIDH Honorary President, and Mr. Saray Thun, ADHOC president. Both stressed the vital importance of realizing victims’ right to participation and reparation while acknowledging the many challenges that Civil Parties face in realizing these rights before the ECCC. Mr. Latt Ky of ADHOC presented the soon-to-be-published findings of the organization’s survey of Cambodia-based Civil Parties, noting that there was almost universal interest in justice, acknowledgement and reparations among Civil Parties interviewed for the study.
Both the international and national Lead Co-Lawyers presented on the variety of steps they are taking in cooperation with Civil Party Lawyers to bring Civil Party voices into the proceedings before the Court. In particular, Cambodian Lead Co-Lawyer, PICH Ang, encouraged Civil Parties to not loose faith in the proceedings, in spite of the challenges and delays encountered in the process, noting the unique opportunity for Civil Parties before the Court.
CJA staff attorney, Nushin Sarkarati, spoke to the strong connection that Cambodian Civil Parties living in the U.S. feel toward Cambodia and their desire to see justice and reparations realized on Cambodian soil that benefit and reflect the experiences of all Civil Parties. The final panelist, Dr. Leakhena Nou, drew on her experience working with Cambodians in the U.S. to highlight the particular challenges faced by Cambodian survivors in the American diaspora.
The conference culminated with statements given by six Civil Parties on their expectations in Case 002 before the ECCC and their impressions after the first day of trial proceedings. Several Civil Parties noted their disappointment on not seeing defendant Ieng Thirith in the courtroom, frustration with the Court’s recent ruling that she is unfit to stand trial, and concern that it had taken so long to begin proceedings against her. CJA Civil Party, Sarem Neou, encouraged conference participants to take an active role in the society, to educate themselves on issues, and to not merely accept the position of leaders or authority figures so that atrocities like those of the Khmer Rouge are prevented from taking place in Cambodia again. In addition, a Civil Party from France urged that the burden of any reparations awarded by the ECCC be borne by the defendant, rather than be financed by the victims, the public, or civil society organizations. Civil Parties presented a wide range of viewpoints on the proceedings, but were uniformly pleased with the opportunity to address the conference and eager to see the justice rendering for their suffering and that of their loved ones.