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Khmer Rouge Tribunal Trial Program

 

Building upon over a decade of experience of the War Crimes Studies Center in trial monitoring in Sierra Leone, East Timor, Rwanda, and Indonesia, the War Crimes Studies Center, together with the East-West Center, has established a regionally-based trial monitoring program at the Khmer Rouge tribunal for duration of the Khmer Rouge trials. The program forms one of a number of projects established by the Asian International Justice Initiative (AIJI). The goals of the AIJI Monitoring Program are:

  • to widen public awareness of the Khmer Rouge trials in Cambodia, in the region, and internationally, through the dissemination of weekly trial reports both describing and assessing the proceedings as they unfold;
  • to train young lawyers by giving them the experience of engaging in monitoring and legal analysis at an international tribunal, under expert supervision; and
  • to develop a regional network of young human rights lawyers who are able to engage with justice processes and to assess their overall effectiveness.

This project builds on a successful program established for monitoring Case 001 before the ECCC (i.e., that of Kaing Guek Eav alias ‘Duch’). During Case 001, AIJI, through the direction of Professor David Cohen, ran a regional monitoring program in which monitors from Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, China, Germany, Switzerland and the United States joined Cambodian monitors to write weekly reports and periodic analyses on proceedings before the ECCC, as well as to work closely with a local film production company to produce a weekly film series known as Duch on Trial. The series aired on a Cambodian network provider, Cambodian Television Network (CTN). Time Magazine reported that an estimated 3 million viewers watched the film series and described it as a “sleeper hit.”

During Case 002, we have continued our daily monitoring presence at the ECCC. AIJI’s current team in Phnom Penh includes lawyers and advanced law students from Cambodia, Thailand, the Philippines, Switzerland, and the United States. Monitors from outside Asia receive funding from European and American University grants. In mid-2012, we anticipate adding additional self-funded monitors from Singapore and Taiwan. Since the commencement of trial in Case 002, our team has published reports on the Initial Hearing, two Preliminary Hearings on Ieng Thirith’s Fitness to Stand Trial, Civil Party Reparations, and the Opening Statements. Moreover, since December 2011, we have produced weekly critical reports on the trial proceedings in Case 002, as well as a special report on the Duch Appeal Judgment, delivered in February 2012. In addition to our written reports, AIJI monitors have worked hard each week in collaboration with Khmer Mekong Films to produce our weekly television program about Case 002, Facing Justice. As of February 15, 2012, nine episodes of Facing Justice have been produced, aired on Cambodian National Television, and distributed online. In conjunction with the television program, AIJI and KMF have co-produced a companion call-in radio program that ensures news and public dialogue about the court reaches the widest possible audience in Cambodia. Moreover, since Case 001, AIJI has expanded its reach to international audiences through a blog as well as through social networking outlets (Facebook and Twitter).

The core objective of the Project’s monitoring process is to provide an accurate picture of the adherence to fair trial rights by the ECCC as a model court for the Cambodian judiciary and enhance the legal legacy of the ECCC by using the ECCC to further promote fair trial rights and adherence to the rule of law. Through regular written reporting, production of television shows, and interactive radio programming, our monitors aim to increase public awareness and dialogue within ASEAN about accountability for gross human rights violations.

AIJI has chosen to have the monitors scrutinize the proceedings at the ECCC because this Tribunal was established with intent to be an important model court in Cambodia. Through formal training as well as on the job professional capacity building, AIJI strives to: (i) enhance Cambodian and regional monitors’ understanding of fair trial rights in action (particularly as the ECCC’s Internal Rules are closely based on the Cambodian Code of Criminal Procedure); and (ii) give monitors a good point of comparison to proceedings before the domestic courts, for qualitative assessments being made of the Cambodian criminal justice system (e.g. the conduct of interviewing witnesses, defense counsel’s advocacy on behalf of their client, proof based on the judge’s ‘intimate conviction’). This is particularly so, in light of the fact that several judges from the ECCC hold prominent positions in domestic courts. In addition to monitoring the Court, the Project includes an independent outreach element, targeted at raising awareness of fair trial rights and increasing the demand for justice, through the production of weekly films broadcast on the CTN and radio broadcast on RNK.

The monitors will observe all substantive hearings days, as well as the Closing Statements and as far as practicable, the pronouncement of the Judgment. Given the pace of trial thus far, we expect that the monitoring Project will almost certainly run through the entire 2012 calendar year and beyond.

Further information on the team and their respective roles can be accessed here.

The reports can be accessed here.

The Weekly Television programs can be viewed here.