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.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

UN's Fallingout with the Former King and Its Perceived Underpinning Reasons


by Stan Starygin

After Michelle Lee's letter and the former King's comments in longhand on it, Sihanouk vowed that that was his last offer of cooperation made to the tribunal. The RGC's Official Spokesman at the ECCC Reach Sambath was quoted as saying, in response to this controversy, that "of course, all Cambodians respect the King-Father". This statement came from Reach Sambath shortly after the publication of Sihanouk's agitated response to Michelle Lee's letter. Although there was no express statement of any disagreements on the matter between the co-called Cambodian part of the tribunal and its international counterpart, it is clear from Reach Sambath's statement that he made every effort to extricate himself, and other Cambodian personnel of the tribunal, from those who had made the decision to deny the former King's request of the tribunal's officials' participation in the discussion of the KR period planned by Sihanouk.

I am not convinced that, to this date, the parties are clear about what either of them had intended to achieve and exactly what they were responding to. As it seems, in his original letter Sihanouk is asking for the tribunal's officials' participation in what he sees as an opportunity for him to make a public statement on matters of his involvement with Democratic Kampuchea during their reign of power. Although the former King uses the term 'witness' in his original letter, it is not clear if he means it in a legal sense or merely as a general term for relaying information to the general public outside institutions of formal justice. In her letter to Sihanouk, Michelle Lee doubtless uses 'witness' as a legal term when she states that "only ECCC judges have the compentency to determine who must be heard as a witness". Sihanouk, subsequently, takes this statement as an affront when he states that he "already said everything as a "witness", but then follows up and concludes that he "will have nothing more to say to these judges".

This raises a host of issues. One, why could the tribunal not grant the former King his request and show up at a press-conference, provided the King didn't see it as part of the judicial process for which the ECCC was set up? What would be the harm in doing so, if the King merely intended to lecture to the tribunal's officials and the rest of the nation on what he sees as his role in the creation and governance of Democratic Kampuchea? In technical terms, how exactly would this mission have been any different from the tribunal's personnel routine outreach missions that are predicated upon an understanding that those are an auxiliary of the work of the tribunal and not a part of the judicial process? Two, to what extent was the former King informed about the nuts and bolts of the operation of this tribunal to help him gauge the authority vested in the variety of its officials? Three, was an honest attempt made by the tribunal to get on the same page about what the former King had set out to do by publishing the letter which sparked this controversy? Four, where is the Cambodian public and civil society on this issue?


At September 13, 2007 at 12:51 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Kings sudden reversal is also interesting as he has been quoted in many media reports as saying he would happily remove his immunity and face prison time if required- and that he would come and testify on his own even if he court did not call on him.

So what's going on here? Was he told by the CPP not to testify under oath? Did he have second thoughts about it? He has certainly not been shy about expressing his views in public, but if that is all he wanted to do, why did he not just go ahead and do the TV program anyway? What was the requirement of a non-judicial ECCC offical for this?

One theory is that with his 'new' policy of not wanting anything to do with a court the King was stuck. He could not testify officially, but he has been saying for years to the people that he would. How to get out of this and still save face? Call on a press officer to sit an hear his story on national TV. It would be inadmissible in court but afterwards he could claim to have already lived up to his promises and 'testified'.

That was a trap the court wisely stayed away from.

More worrying for the court I am sure was the absolute unpredictability of the King and the event. What would the King say? Could it affect ongoing investigations? Where was this all going? With the court underway and the King being at the very least a key figure of the period, the court could not risk being involved in something over which it has no control.

Now as to it being, 'just like outreach', I think it is clear that it was nothing like that. ECCC Outreach events are organized by the court and used to give information about the court and answer basic questions. They are not designed to take 'testimony' nor publicize the stories of potential victims or witnesses. In fact every effort is made to ensure that nothing is done during ECCC outreach activities to in any way taint or effect the gathering of evidence or the protection of potential witnesses.

Of course nothing stops people from going on TV or radio to tell their stories- but the court cannot be involved in encouraging or promoting anything but the legal process for potential witnesses or victims.

This story is far from over.

At September 13, 2007 at 1:43 AM , Blogger Stan Starygin said...

It is an excellent point you are making about the court having avoided a potential trap sprung before it by this controversy, and I do understand that had the tribunal agreed to participate, to the uninitiated in the tribunal's IRs, this likely would have looked like the tribunal is going out of its way to hear the former King's "testimony" delivered on his own conditions (time, place, etc), which would have distinguished him as a -- although unsocilicited -- witness. I also agreed that it would have given him an opportunity to say "I have already testified", should there be any further developments of his involvement with the tribunal. However, let's imagine the venue was the sidelines of an ngo, university or another type of group activity to which all the parties involved here would be invited and the King decided to take advantage of the opportunity to present his case (whatever that is that he has in mind at this point and that he wanted the tribunal to hear) to the audience, being fully aware that the relevant tribunal officials are present. Would the tribunal officials walk away from this event or would they not accept an invitation of this type to begin with? What if Sihanouk decided to show up at an outreach event and present his case there (it is tough to gauge what does and doesn't happen at outreach events due to the ECCC's outreach program being nascent as it is, but cases of people trying to present their cases did happen at other tribunals' outreach events), which in his opinion would have still given him a basis for "I have already testified". Would this be apples and oranges, or are we talking the same fruit here?


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