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.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Duch Lawyers Want Expert Research Put on Web

By Chiep Mony, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
20 May 2009

Defense lawyers for the jailed Khmer Rouge prison chief Duch have asked that the UN-backed tribunal post on its Web site documents prepared by a US researcher.

Craig Etcheson, a Khmer Rouge expert and author of “The Rise and Demise of Democratic Kampuchea,” is employed by the prosecution section of the tribunal and is the first foreign expert to testify at Duch’s trial.

Etcheson collected information related to Tuol Sleng, the prison run by Duch, including testimony about former Khmer Rouge cadre from different zones and ministries.

Duch, 66, whose real name is Kaing Kek Iev, is facing a battery of atrocity charges for his role as director of Tuol Sleng, a former high school, known to the Khmer Rouge as S-21.

During his testimony on Tuesday, Etcheson described widespread purges of the Khmer Rouge’s own government and military officials.

Tuol Sleng at one time held 532 people from the Public Works Ministry, or 15 percent of its workforce, 386 officials from the Commerce Ministry, 286 from the Energy Ministry and 251 from the Railway Ministry, Etcheson told the court.

Defense lawyer Francois Roux told judges Wednesday the research provided by Etcheson should be posted on the tribunal’s Web site “as quickly as possible” to help Cambodians understand the regime.

Questions over the documents took up the entire hearing Wednesday, as Duch remained silent throughout .

US Envoy Weighs In on Tribunal Corruption

By Kong Sothanarith, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
21 May 2009

The top US envoy for war crimes called on the Khmer Rouge tribunal Thursday to resolve lingering allegations of corruption and mismanagement, a government spokesman said, following meetings with officials from the court.

US Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues Clint Williamson met with tribunal administration, legal affairs and public affairs officials.

“He raised an administration mechanism to deal with discontent and resolve complaints from both sides, international and national staff,” Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said.

The UN and Cambodia are at odds over how corruption complaints should be handled, following reports by Cambodian staff they pay kickbacks to work at the court.

Money for the Cambodian side of the UN-backed tribunal is running out, with donors unwilling to pay for a substandard court and the UNDP withholding funding until the corruption issue is dealt with.

However Phay Siphan said Williamson appreciated the court’s work so far in keeping costs low and the quick arrests of five suspects, as well as the timely approval of internal rules.

Williamson is expected to hold a press conference Friday to further detail his five-day trip, which ends Saturday.

His visit follows failed talks in April between Peter Taksoe-Jensen, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Legal Affairs, and Council Minister Sok An.

The UN has said complainants at the hybrid court should have their identities protected, but the Cambodian side says anonymity can lead to false claims.

The two sides had agreed in February to a basic mechanism to solve corruption issues “which is not quite different” from Williamson’s proposal, Phay Siphan said.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Duch’s Trial Allays Some, Not All, Concerns

By Men Kimseng, VOA Khmer
Original report from Washington
12 May 2009

The ongoing trial of Duch has put to rest many concerns about the Khmer Rouge tribunal and whether it can effectively administer justice to five jailed leaders of the regime.

Dressed in button-up, collared shirts that are far different from the black pajamas and cap he is shown wearing in file photos, Duch has answered many questions about the regime and his role at Tuol Sleng, known as S-21 to the Khmer Rouge.

He has also apologized to his victims and their families. However, for some, the trial has not been enough, and for others, concerns about political bias and corruption in the court remain.

The trial of Duch, whose real name is Kaing Kek Iev, began in earnest March 30, and the former administrator has already admitted to ordering the torture and execution of Khmer Rouge cadre, intellectuals, foreigners, and, in the end, some of the very guards and interrogators who worked under him.

These admissions differ starkly from the hedging, denials and finger-pointing exercised by four other tribunal defendants: ideologue Nuon Chea, head of state Khieu Samphan, foreign minister Ieng Sary, and social affairs minister Ieng Thirith.

None of them has come close to apologizing for the horrors perpetrated by members of their regime, which killed nearly 2 million people through overwork, starvations, disease, torture and execution.

“Please allow me to apologize to those victims who are still alive and to families of the dead for their miserable deaths at S-21,” Duch said during one session of his trial. “Now I would like them to know that I am sorry, so please take this wish into your consideration. I certainly do not beg you all for forgiveness yet.”

He spoke from a prepared statement, and some tribunal observers have wondered at his sincerity. Some of the few survivors of his prison have refused to accept his apology; they want the court to issue a final verdict.

Other monitors say the tribunal has been well organized, and they would like to see the other four defendants follow Duch’s example.

“I have observed that out of the five [detainees], only Duch confessed to doing this or that, but the other four do not confess,” said Kek Galabru, president of the rights group Licadho, which is following the trial. “Duch’s confession helps us to understand that what Duch did was on orders from above.”

However, for Vann Nath, a surviving prisoner of S-21, Duch’s confession was not convincing. He’s also doubtful all the trials will take place.

“The process has been so long,” he told VOA Khmer. “They have now found a way out because it has been too long. They find different tricks. It is also impossible to say that they are wrong. It now goes that way. What can we do?”

He’s not ready for Duch’s apology.

“We are still considering,” he said. “We don’t just agree with what has been said immediately.”

Duch, now 66 and by far the youngest to be indicted, faces charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity, torture and murder, for his role at Tuol Sleng and other facilities. Prosecutors say more than 12,000 prisoners were tortured under his direction and later sent to their deaths at an execution site outside Phnom Penh.

His trial is scheduled to end July 2, but some observers say it could take up to 16 months to complete.

“It is hard to expect a definite date, because, as we know, in a trial there are many parties involved,” tribunal spokesman Reach Sambath said.

Despite much preparation, the UN-backed tribunal has had some difficulty with Duch’s trial.

Challenges of political interference, a lack of funding, and a lack of support for victim participation and outreach remain, Michelle Staggs Kelsall, deputy director of the East-West Centre’s Asian International Justice Initiative, recently told participants of forum in Washington.

Simultaneous translation has been another hurdle. Critics say many of the points are mistranslated from Khmer to English, when Cambodian judges or prosecutors speak.

Tribunal Judges Refuse To Investigate Corruption

By Chun Sakada, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
08 May 2009

The two investigating judges for the Khmer Rouge tribunal have denied a request from defense lawyers to investigate corruption allegations in the court’s administration office.

The allegations have already cost the court donor support, and defense attorneys for the regime’s jailed ideologue, Nuon Chea, and former foreign minister, Ieng Sary, have begun to use the court’s inability to tackle the allegations as evidence their clients will not receive fair trials.

In a statement dated April 3, investigating judges You Bunleng and Marcel Lemonde said they had “no authority” to investigate the allegations.

The Open Society Justice Initiative, an organization monitoring the court, publicized the allegations in February 2007, claiming that, “Cambodian personnel, including judges, must kick back a significant percentage of their wages to Cambodian government officials in exchange for their positions on the court.”

Four months later, according to a complaint by defense attorneys, “the United Nations Development Program released a similarly damning report.”

UNDP has since held back around $750,000 in funding, while the UN and Cambodian negotiators have failed to reach an agreement on how allegations should be handled.

“Corruption has been widespread through my client’s upcoming official hearing,” said Son Arun, Cambodian counsel for Nuon Chea. “When there is corruption, there will not be justice.”

And Udom, defense attorney for Ieng Sary, said the judges’ decision not to investigate was “not proper.”

“The court is filled with corruption allegations,” he said. “We cannot find justice for any party.”

Both attorneys said they would appeal the investigation decision to the Pre-Trial Chamber of the court.

One court monitor, Lath Ky, of the rights group Adhoc, said judges should investigate the charges, for the sake of “effectiveness, transparency and justice at the tribunal.”

Constitution Hid Khmer Rouge Crimes

By Kong Sothanarith, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
08 May 2009

Cambodians widely believe the Khmer Rouge was an atheist regime. But in trial testimony this week, jailed prison chief Duch said the regime’s constitution allowed for religion that wasn’t harmful.

The former chief of Tuol Sleng, who is facing atrocity crimes charges at the tribunal, told judges this week that Article 20 of the constitution for Democratic Kampuchea, as the regime was called, allowed for “every citizen of Kampuchea” to have “the right to worship any religion and the right not to worship any religion.”

“Reactionary religions that are detrimental to Democratic Kampuchea and the people of Kampuchea are absolutely forbidden,” it said.

Duch’s testimony about the constitution uncovered another truth about the regime: The words may have been there, but they masked another intent.

“Concretely, the position of this scheme was not to believe in religion whatsoever,” said Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia. “The monks were forcibly defrocked, and pagodas became deposits for cells of detention. Cathedrals and mosques were the same, and their believers were accused as enemies and died by oppression.”

In fact, the constitution served “only to hide the crimes the Khmer Rouge expected would happen,” he said.

The constitution also called Democratic Kampuchea an “independent, neutral state,” with “justice managed by Kampuchean people’s court.”

Sunday, May 10, 2009

As a Matter of Background: A Recent Article on ECCC Kickbacks Allegations

The court on trial
Apr 2nd 2009 PHNOM PENH
From The Economist print edition

Accusations of corruption threaten to discredit the trial of the Khmers Rouges

THE tribunal to try former Khmers Rouges began its real proceedings this week. The first in the dock is Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, who ran the former regime’s notorious S-21 torture prison and who is charged with crimes against humanity, torture and murder. In court, he admitted responsibility, expressing “heartfelt sorrow”. But the long-overdue hearing is being overshadowed by accusations of a lesser sort: corruption and political interference. These threaten to discredit proceedings on the far greater crimes.

Three of the court’s staff, who spoke on condition of anonymity, accuse Sean Visoth, the court’s chief of administration, of collecting money from every Cambodian in his department, including court employees and Cambodian legal assistants in the office of the co-investigating judges and co-prosecutors (the court has dual officials because it is was set up under Cambodian and United Nations auspices and is run under national and UN rules). Some of the cash, they were told, was intended for Sok An, a deputy prime minister.

There is no indication that the minister took the money and neither man has commented on the accusations, which are unproven. But in November Sean Visoth went on sick leave because, according to the government’s spokesman Khieu Kanharith, a UN corruption review had named him and requested his removal. “Sick leave is a political excuse,” he says.

These accusations are only the latest in a series to have plagued the court. The UN says that last year it received complaints from several Cambodians about kickbacks. This action brought the UN and Cambodian sides into conflict and, according to one staffer at the court, resulted in several people being fired by the government in murky circumstances.

The court’s rules oblige Cambodians to report complaints to their own government. So when the Cambodian whistle-blowers took their complaints to the UN, it organised a confidential review of the allegations and recommended that the Cambodian side should investigate them. The Cambodian side responded by saying that the review was outside the UN’s jurisdiction and therefore invalid. Last August Sok An appointed two officials to hear the complaints and in December he met officials of the UN Office of Legal Affairs to draw up an anti-corruption plan. But the whistle-blowers are not reassured. “If the UN does an investigation, I will come out,” says one. “But if the government does an investigation, I will not...I would not feel safe for myself and my family.”

Lawyers for the defence are demanding a full investigation. On March 27th the defence team for Nuon Chea, another of the accused, backed by two other defence teams, asked to see the confidential UN review. “At some point,” says Richard Rogers, the co-ordinator for the defence lawyers, the UN “is going to have to choose between either looking like it’s complicit in a cover-up or hand over the documents to the defence teams so they can help ensure international standards.”

There are also allegations of political interference, not just corruption. The international prosecutor, Robert Petit, says he has enough evidence to charge more suspects than the five in detention. Yash Ghai, a former special representative of the UN secretary general to Cambodia, adds that if prosecutors have enough evidence to prosecute “they have a duty to do so.” But the Cambodian prosecutor disagrees. Pursuing more suspects would cause instability and exhaust funding, she argues.

Such disputes may be inevitable in a process that is designed to please both Cambodia, which is concerned about maintaining political support for the trial, and the UN, which must keep up international legal standards. “It’s very easy to be a pure international judge in a pure international tribunal very far away from Cambodia, far away from this corrupt atmosphere,” says Marcel Lemonde, the court’s international co-investigating judge and a framer of its internal rules. “But if we have the court operating in Cambodia, applying Cambodian law, with participation of Cambodian judges, and the possibilities for victims and witnesses to attend the hearings and participate, then it becomes interesting.”

The rumble of allegations makes it increasingly difficult for the court to satisfy both sides. The UN Development Programme, which manages a trust fund of donations to the court, has refused to pay the Cambodian side, pending the result of the corruption investigation. Other donors are likely to continue their support—unless the UN itself pulls out or the international judges rule to stay proceedings.

Even then, says the Cambodian government, the trial would go ahead. “Why don’t all the lawyers pull out?” asks its spokesman. “If you say that the court is corrupt, get out. At least we can save some money.” But not, if that were to happen, the tribunal’s judicial reputation.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Japanese Government Undermines the UN

Japan has once again undermined the United Nations (UN)’s efforts to impress the necessity of an investigation into the allegations of kickbacks by recently contributing $4.1 million to the “Cambodian side” of the ECCC.

Shortly before the inception of the ECCC, Japan asserted itself as a committed donor to the process by immediately taking the lead in terms of funds pledged and subsequently made available. In addition to its size the Japanese funding to the Court has since had one other feature which makes it particular attractive to the Cambodian government: the Japanese do not ask questions. The Japanese government has made this policy clear in a number of statements it has issued since the inception of the ECCC which asserted that the policy of bilateral assistance of Japan was not to intervene in the management of projects paid for from its funds. True to this policy the Japanese government has refrained from commenting on the allegations of kickbacks which has been the pivotal issue of ECCC financial management in the last almost 3 years.

However, recent events demonstrate that the Japanese government has gone far beyond its “no-questions asked” policy and interfered with the rest of the international community pressure campaign to spur the Cambodian government to investigate the allegations of kickbacks. Such pressure campaign had been conducted through the UN offices for a period of time and reached a point where the parties managed to converge on a number of policy elements. Reasonably cooperative up to a certain point the Cambodian government suddenly stopped in its tracks and refused to compromise on the remainder of policy elements. Shortly after such negotiations had failed the Japanese government came to the rescue of the “Cambodian side” of the ECCC with a $4.1 million package, thus making access to the funds frozen by the UN as a result of the Cambodian government’s inaction on the allegations of kickbacks unnecessary (at least for the period of time these funds last). Whether the Cambodian government knew in the course of its negotiations with the UN that the Japanese government would fund the “Cambodian side” of the Court regardless of the outcome of the UN-RGC negotiations remains a good question. However, the timing of the Japanese government’s contribution coupled with a fair understanding of development funding policies and procedures may be of assistance in teasing out an answer to this question.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

New Government in Cambodia

by Tyler Moselle

The government of Cambodia is replete with corruption and does not respond adequately to the needs of its citizens according to Joel Brinkley’s Foreign Affairs article “Cambodia’s Curse.” Pol Pot, the killing fields, and the Khmer Rouge still linger in the memories of most Americans when Cambodia’s name is mentioned. Yet, the country is currently languishing in the arms of an unresponsive governing elite whose fortunes may continue to improve due to oil and continuous aid grafting.
What in good conscience should a humanitarian do?
1) Support the regime: More wealth will trickle down, help improve swathes of the country and the foreign investment climate, and all rice paddies will eventually rise. They are a minority elite, but someone has to keep things stable.
2) Call for sanctions: Call them out on corruption and aid grafting, enforce stricter oversight, and ensure Cambodian dissent is empowered as a counter-balance to the government. Cambodia was the first major UN nation-building effort of the 1990s, so bring back the Security Council. If the sanctions and UN don’t work, invade, overthrow the regime, and re-order the society.
3) Take it to the streets: Call for the removal of the regime and establish a new government in Cambodia via organic revolution.
4) Do nothing: Write and read online humanitarian blogs to at least understand what is happening in a distant part of the world.
While you ponder the menu of options, ask yourself the irreverent question: what would Pol Pot do? After all, before the Khmer Rouge took power, Cambodian radical Marxists claimed the Sihanouk regime was corrupt, comprised of minority elitists, and unresponsive to the majority of citizens who were agrarian-based. They called for a more just society going so far as to press the reset button and start over at “Year 0.”
Let us be moderate conservatives, argue that human nature is essentially corrupt, and that we can’t do any better than Prime Minister Hun Sen. The oil wealth will bring in foreign investments which won’t necessarily buttress the regime and help it transition to wealthy, tyrannical rule. Instead it will contribute to building a middle class again—the group of educated workers and intelligentsia killed during the 1970s for wearing glasses. Give things time—don’t be so impetuous!
Let us be good humanitarian internationalists and clamor for the Security Council. They can do something. Or, perhaps more subtle methods can be used to merely enforce responsible oversight from aid agencies and donor countries. But wait, isn’t the regime doing everything it can to bring in more aid while paying lip service to the demands of donors? Can we send in the protégé of Hans Blix’s doppelganger from the International Committee for Responsible Donations? Can that team write a report to someone who will do something forceful? If not, will Obama please invade with coalition partners from ASEAN?
Let us be good radical progressives and demand Cambodians take it to the streets. We can support civil-society organizations and Buddhist monk networks who demonstrate. We can call on journalists and political representatives to support the cause of the Cambodian people just like we did in Burma; just like we do in Tibet.
Or, we can do 4, which is the most likely of all.
The truth is that Cambodia’s Curse is a microcosm of international politics and pricks the conscience of many individuals. Unfortunately, we pragmatic humanitarians have figured out few responsible and adequate ways to deal with the reality of societies disrupted by post-colonial revolutions, Marxist utopianism, oligarchical corruption, and tyrannical families who laugh in the face of the rule of law.
Reading Brinkley’s excellent historical and contemporary portrait of Cambodia makes me realize this more forcefully than ever and leaves me wanting for something more.


Tyler Moselle is a Research Associate at Harvard Kennedy School’s Carr Center for Human Rights Policy.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Pol Pot a Committed Communist: Duch

By Kong Sothanarith, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
30 April 2009

Not even Pol Pot had the right to release prisoners held by the Khmer Rouge, jailed prison chief Duch told judges on Thursday. Pol Pot was too respectful of communist principals, Duch said, and not even he dared to make unilateral decisions.

“Everybody who had been accused as an enemy and who had been imprisoned at S-21, none had a right to release,” Duch said. “Not even Pol Pot himself, who was the top leader of the Khmer Rouge.”

Pol Pot did not release prisoners, but he would issue orders for some not to be killed, Duch said.

Only a handful of people survived the facility, which was the Khmer Rogue’s top torture center, and prosecutors say more than 12,000 people who were sent there were later executed.

Duch, 66, whose real name is Kaing Kek Iev, faces charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity, torture and murder for his role as chief of the prison, as well as its connected execution site, Choeung Ek.

Duch’s trial at the UN-backed court has been ongoing for a full month now, and the prison chief’s testimony, combined with others, is painting a picture of the regime as an organization whose principles and decisions led to mass killings.

The forced eviction of Phnom Penh when the Khmer Rouge came to power in April 1975 was a challenge to the social classes adopted by the Khmer Rouge, Duch said Thursday.

The march out of city centers, on April 17, began what the Khmer Rouge called Year Zero, and was one of many policies that would lead to the deaths of nearly 2 million people in three years and less than eight months.

However, Duch said Thursday that killing undertaken by Khmer Rouge cadre began even earlier, just after the US-backed coup of Lon Nol, in 1970, as the revolutionaries sought to protect their respective zones.

Usually, those killed were accused as spies, he said.

Cambodian Side of Tribunal Receives Funding

By Sok Khemara, VOA Khmer
Original report from Washington
01 May 2009

The Japanese government on Thursday announced a funding infusion of $4.1 million to the beleaguered Cambodian side of the UN-backed Khmer Rouge tribunal, providing enough for staff salaries for the months of April and May as the court undertakes its first trial.

Many donors have proven reluctant to fund the Cambodian side of the court, which they say has not fully addressed allegations of corruption.

But the bilateral donation from Japan will ensure the tribunal can proceed with the trial of Duch, former chief of Tuol Sleng prison, who has been in court since March 30 facing atrocity crimes charges.

UN and Cambodian negotiators failed to reach an agreement in April on how allegations of kickbacks and other corruption should be handled, with the UN side maintaining the importance of anonymity in complaints.

The UNDP, which handles funding for the court, has refused to release money from donors until the allegations are dealt with.

That has led to a critical shortage in the Cambodian budget at the court, with Japan giving $200,000 in March to help pay staff salaries.

This week’s $4.1 million “will cover the shortfall of the Cambodian side of the ECCC’s operational costs,” the Japanese Embassy said in a statement, referring to the tribunal by its initials, for Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia.

Tribunal spokesman Reach Sambath declined to comment on the funding, but he confirmed that staff have been told their April and May salaries will be received in the third or fourth week of May.

Observers say that despite the corruption allegations, international donors are loath to see the special court fail, especially now that Duch is on trial.

Both France and Japan have praised the progress of the court and have urged the UN and Cambodia to reach agreement on handling corruption.

For now, the two sides are implementing a parallel structure, where complaints on the Cambodian side move through Cambodian channels, and the UN handles complaints made on its side.