ECCC Reparations

This blog is designed to serve as a repository of analyses, news reports and press releases related to the issue of RERAPATIONS within the framework of the Extraordinary Chambers in Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), a.k.a. the Khmer Rouge Tribunal.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Victim Participation and Access to Justice Issues at the ECCC


Stan Starygin

From the very day when the location of the ECCC was switched from centrally located Chakhtomukh Theater to a thirty minute (in light traffic) ride from downtown Phnom Penh, it has been clear that access to the tribunal wouldn’t be the same. Being located right on the most popular congregation area on the Tonle Bassac River, Chakhtomukh Theater-based court would easily attract local and international visitors without making them go out of their way, as the theater is also conveniently located within a short ride from Phnom Penh’s major bus and taxi stations. Now that the ECCC is located this far from downtown Phnom Penh many Cambodians who I had asked whether they would visit the tribunal said ‘no’ because they “don’t have the time to travel this far” and that gasoline – which is a concern for many – “is too expensive” to be easily spent on a trip to the far-flung tribunal.

The issue of distance along with other recently reported hindrances pose a question of access to the tribunal’s justice. The Cambodian Daily (15 August 2007), for example, ran a story about a French Cambodian woman’s journey to the ECCC to explore ways of how she could participate as a victim and resulting in frustration and her return to France. She was quoted as saying that “it [the ECCC] is even more hectic than meeting with the King”.

An attempt was made by the ECCC Internal Rules to carve out a larger space for victim participation than the currently operating UN criminal tribunals have by creating a Victims Unit – which is currently being staffed – and of which close to zero information has been disseminated so far (cumulatively, I asked about 50 people of a fair cross-section of Prey Veng, Takeo, Kompong Speu and Phnom Penh during July and early August whether they had ever heard of the ECCC’s Victims Unit to which none of the respondents gave a positive answer). Although there are other formidable issues that the Victims Unit is now facing (status within the ECCC, budget, staffing, etc), the largest of them seems to be the current fact that it hardly constitutes an effective vehicle for obtaining the remedies sought by the KR victims. Effectiveness of the ECCC Internal Rules’ framed remedy can only be achieved if a. the general population is aware of this remedy, b. the general population is aware of the various ways of obtaining this remedy.

It is hard to imagine why the relevant line of the ECCC budget and significant ECCC outreach-earmarked budgets of a number of civil society groups have, to this date, not been expended to address the issues of access to justice of the tribunal and disseminate the currently available information on victim participation in the proceedings before the ECCC.


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