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.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Tribunal Asked To Call Hun Sen: Letter

By Sok Khemara, VOA Khmer

Original report from Washington

02 March 2010

Khmer Rouge tribunal investigators were requested to call Prime Minister Hun Sen to testify with other key government figures, but declined, according to a confidential court order obtained by VOA Khmer.

In the days before they concluded their investigation of the tribunal’s second case, judges Marcel Lemonde and You Bunleang decided Hun Sen “was not likely to provide additional evidence” and that he should not be interviewed.

The decision was a response to a request from the defense teams of Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan, who wanted Hun Sen interviewed along with Foreign Minister Hor Namhong, Finance Minister Keat Chhon, and other senior government leaders.

“They are not likely to provide any additional evidence in relation to that already obtained from a large number of documents or from interviews of other witnesses, 725 in total,” You Bunleang wrote.

In January, judges closed the investigation of Case No. 002, which will try Nuon Chea, Khieu Samphan, Ieng Sary, Ieng Thirith and Kaing Kek Iev for atrocity crimes.

Defense for Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan have reportedly filed a complaint to the Pre-Trial Chamber of the UN-backed court over the decision.

The decision raises more questions about the independence of the court, which had sought to question senior Cambodian People’s Party members last year but was refused.

“A critical test for the success of the [tribunal]—as for all courts trying international crimes—is that the judicial process be allowed to run its course without political interference,” James Goldston, executive director of the Open Society Justice Initiative, in New York, told VOA Khmer.

The group remains concerned over government objections to trials of lower-tiered Khmer Rouge and of the senior officials’ refusal to testify, he said.

“It is important for the rule of law in Cambodia that decisions about whom to charge, what to charge and who should testify be made by judges, not politicians,” he said.

Cambodian officials have denied political influence at the court, and tribunal officials say the court works independently, according to agreements between the UN and Cambodia.

Meanwhile, the tribunal retains the right to issue arrest warrants along with subpoenas but has no real way to enforce them.

$85 Million Tribunal Budget Confirmed

By Sok Khemara, VOA Khmer

Original report from Washington

04 March 2010

Donors have approved an $85 million budget for Khmer Rouge tribunal operations over the next two years, a court official confirmed, but actual pledges are still under consideration.

Donors in New York approved $42 million for this year and $43 for 2011, said Lars Olsen, a spokesman for the tribunal.

“What remains is then to see the donations from the different countries,” he said.

The budget request includes the possibility of trying five additional Khmer Rouge suspects for atrocity crimes, as well as administration, outreach and a Victims Unit to spur participation by everyday Cambodians.

Without specific donor pledges, it remains unclear whether the tribunal will be fully funded for its budget, but countries have said they are willing to put money forward for justice at international standards.

“In Sweden’s view, for the sake of justice and reconciliation, it is important that those ‘most responsible for the crimes and serious violations’ according to law are held accountable,” Hilding Lundkvist, first secretary of Sweden’s UN mission, said in an e-mail.

Svay Rieng Stupa Marks Khmer Rouge Killings

By Pich Samnang, VOA Khmer
Original report from Svay Rieng province
03 March 2010

Every morning when Touch Sreng opens the door to his small shop in Tlork village, the first thing he sees is an old stupa. The stone stupa’s roof leaks and its walls are cracked and inside are a thousand human skulls, victims of a little-known Khmer Rouge prison.

The prison was called Wat Tlork, after the pagoda here in Svay Chhrum district, about 13 kilometers from the provincial capital of Svay Rieng province. At its height, it held thousands of prisoners, nearly as many as the infamous Tuol Sleng prison in Phnom Penh, which is now a museum.

Touch Sreng, who is 48, said he wants this stupa to become a marker of remembrance too, similar to Tuol Sleng or the stupa at its sister site, in the Choeung Ek “killing fields” outside the capital.

“If the stupa can look like the Chheong Ek memorial, with transparent glass, the people and passengers would like to see it, thus making them remember the Khmer Rouge genocide,” he said. “But so far some people do not even know what this stupa is. Some say it is just a family stupa, though it is in fact the stupa of our community.”

The stupa occupies perhaps 2 square meters and on it hangs a broken wooden door. The roots of a nearby Bodhi tree have begun to uproot it.

Rath Nan, a 48-year-old farmer living next to the stupa, said she has a growing concern over the aging structure and she fears its skulls may be decaying and could be lost.

“I want the stupa turned into a museum, with a larger size and better appearance than it is now,” the mother of four said. “I want it with glass so that people in the village and from afar can clearly see the skulls.”

The prison was the largest in Svay Rieng province, and it was surrounded by 41 mass graves. Villagers call it “the Tuol Sleng of Svay Rieng,” after 932 skulls were found here in 1982. An estimated 10,000 to 15,000 people were killed here and buried and the site is under the jurisdiction of the Khmer Rouge tribunal.

On specially occasions like Pchum Ben and Khmer New Year, people in this village and others come to pray for the deceased. Travelling visitors also often stop by to photograph the stupa and chat with villagers to learn what happened here under the Khmer Rouge.

Srey Saphon, chief of Tlork commune, said local government has a plan to turn the stupa into a museum and hopes to add a library to keep Khmer Rouge-related documents.

“We will build a moderate museum and a library to keep documents, like photos we can collect from the Khmer Rouge time,” he said. There is no timeframe for the conversion so far, he said, and he was looking for funding for the work.

Sok Samin, chief of Tlork village, said after a recent village meeting the majority of more than 800 families here had suggested the stupa be converted into a museum.

“Most villagers want the memorial bigger and better,” he said, “for the next generation to be aware that the Pol Pol regime killed people, undertook the mass killings with no tolerance.”

Clearing the Fog from Khmer Rouge History

By Soeung Sophat, VOA Khmer
Original report from Washington
03 March 2010

While many Americans are familiar with the idea of genocide through education in schools, they may be less familiar with the Cambodian tragedy. Even so, they likely know more about it than everyday Cambodian students. A young Cambodian-American would like to change all that.

“One reason why they are probably the most informed about this issue is because in 30 out of 50 states in the United States, there is a mandate in public schools to teach about to have some kind of genocide or Holocaust education,” said filmmaker Poeuv Socheata, 29, whose “New Year Baby” follows the effect of the Khmer Rouge on her family. “And so almost every American student learns about the Holocaust at some point in their education and some of them will also learn about other genocides.”

An estimated 6 million Jews were killed in the Holocaust, one of the worst atrocities of the 20th Centuries. As many as 2 million Cambodians died under the Khmer Rouge, just 30 years later, though their story is less known. Poeuv Socheata, who leads an oral history project at Yale University, says this is because of inadequate education, a problem she is trying to address.

Educational efforts by her and other Cambodian-Americans have paid off, and some American schools are starting to teach of Khmer Rouge atrocities using books like “First They Killed My Father,” by Ung Loung, or Poeuv Socheata’s own 2006 documentary.

Meanwhile, Poeuv Socheata has been invited by the US Embassy to be a cultural ambassador for Cambodia and to screen her film in July.

Poeuv Socheata recently discussed the Cambodian tragedy in videoconferencing with three North American high schools, whose students she said have a good understanding of the concept of genocide.

Cambodian-Americans have only a “vague” understanding of what happened during the Khmer Rouge, she told VOA Khmer, because their parents only talk about it in the educational context of hardship. Students in their native Cambodia should know more, she said.

“For me the idea that in Cambodia now there is a generation of young people who are probably the most educated people in the country [but] who don’t have a full knowledge about what happened during the Khmer Rouge seems crazy,” she said.

The so-called negative transmission of Khmer Rouge history in a family setting is also the case in Cambodia, according to Chhang Youk, director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia.

“One negative aspect of parents telling their children about this period is that they tend to use it as a punitive action, like blaming their children for demanding bicycles, motorcycles, and music players when none of that was available during the Khmer Rouge period,” he said. “So this is a mistake we have often overlooked.”

However, he said that informal oral history of an event like the Cambodian tragedy can be important, and is often overlooked. Cambodian youth are everywhere exposed to Khmer Rouge history, he said.

“These stories are all around us,” he said. “So once our youth grow up, they will learn more questions than factual events. Many questions are beyond what students should know or ask about, and they are possibly also beyond a teacher’s ability to answer.”

Questions remain unanswered for many Cambodian youth, who, according to surveys, say they have an inadequate understanding of the Khmer Rouge and want to learn more.

That lack of understanding may soon change. In 2009, the government, with the help of the Documentation Center, mandated the inclusion of Khmer Rouge history in the national high school curriculum—for an estimated 1 million students.

“This teaching will transform us from being a victim to being an educator,” Chhang Youk said, adding that Cambodian seemed more open than other countries to the national education of a national tragedy.

Chhang Youk believes post-conflict countries must learn their history, or they will repeat it, and Poeuv Socheata agrees.

“I also think that as a society, in order to rebuild the country and to create a stronger democracy, it’s very important to implement the lessons that were learned during the Khmer Rouge,” she said.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Tribunal Limits Civil Party Participation

By Kong Sothanarith, VOA Khmer

Original report from Phnom Penh

09 February 2010

The Khmer Rouge tribunal will officially limit the participation of civil parties in upcoming trials, in an effort to streamline court procedures.

"In future trials, civil parties will form a consolidated group and pursue a single claim for reparations," the UN-backed court said in a statement Tuesday, at the end of a plenary session for court judges, prosecutors and other officials.

The decision was made to address "shortcomings" of the court's first trial, of prison chief Kaing Kek Iev, where the participation of multiple civil parties made procedures unwieldy.

The tribunal was designed to add victim participation in the form of civil parties, which participate alongside the defense and prosecution.

The new rules create two lead lawyers to coordinate with all civil party lawyers and victims themselves ahead of trials.

"Civil Party Lawyers may agree to support the Lead Co-Lawyers in the representation of the interests of the consolidated group," the tribunal statement said. "Such support, which will be coordinated by the Lead Co-Lawyers, may include oral and written submissions by Civil Party Lawyers, as well as examination in court of witnesses and their clients."

Tribunal Opens ‘Virtual Court’ for US Studies

By Kong Sothanarith, VOA Khmer

Original report from Phnom Penh

18 February 2010

The Khmer Rouge tribunal on Wednesday opened a virtual digital court that will bring information on its proceedings via the Internet to two well-known universities in America.

The system will be handled by the Hoover Institution at Stanford University and the War Crimes Studies Center at the University of California, Berkeley, and accessible by Cambodian educational institutions.

“The Virtual Tribunal will be a groundbreaking way for the [tribunal] to digitally make available to the public all trial related materials such as decisions, fillings, trial transcripts and video of the court proceeding,” the court said in statement.

It would also “link together all these resources and combine them with expert commentary, educational introduction, explanations and interviews,” the court said.

“This is multimedia,” said Lars Olsen, a spokesman for the tribunal. “So it will be audio, video and print materials.”

The virtual court will also include evidence, confessions and other public material, he said, “so that normal people can look into the proceedings and get an understanding.”

The tribunal is currently preparing for its second case against Khmer Rouge leaders, following the prosecution of Kaing Kek Iev, the prison chief better known as Duch, last year. The second case will try Duch and four other Khmer Rouge leaders for atrocity crimes.

The virtual court is aimed at Cambodian schools and institutions as well, though it remains unclear which ones will benefit from the project. Technical teams are now expected to begin setting up the project.

“We want to make sure this becomes available to people inside and outside of Cambodia, both during the court time and afterward,” Olsen said.

The tribunal already maintains a Web site where schedules and other information are available, and the UN-backed court also includes an outreach team, augmented by efforts from outside organizations.

However, even more information would be helpful, said Latt Ky, a tribunal coordinator for the rights group Adhoc.

“We’ve noticed that the information from the Khmer Rouge tribunal is not easily accessible,” he said. “Victims who are getting old are waiting for the outcome and developments of the court.”

In Tribunal Delays, Worries Over Reconciliation

By Kong Sothanarith, VOA Khmer

Original report from Kampot province

22 February 2010

Some victims of the Khmer Rouge say they are worried the reconciliation process will be hurt by limited civil party participation and an already long trial process at the UN-backed tribunal.

Of 4,000 victim applications to participate as civil parties, only around 500 are likely to be accepted, according to tribunal officials.

The tribunal process includes civil parties, who participate in trials alongside the defense and prosecution, as a third body in the proceedings.

At a forum of 200 people in Kampot province on Saturday, Thun Saray, head of the rights group Adhoc, said such a low number among the civil parties would stir disappointment among Khmer Rouge victims.

“The participation is to cure a mental problem, a mental problem caused by the Khmer Rouge regime,” Thun Saray told participants, who came from Takeo, Kampong Speu and Kampot provinces. “More victim participation is better, because they will bring the information back to their families, to their communities, among friends in the village. And this means is one way to find justice and reconciliation.”

Several participants agreed on Saturday, adding that they were worried tribunal defendants Nuon Chea, Khieu Samphan, Ieng Sary, Ieng Thirith and Kaing Kek Iev were aging and could die before they are brought to court. Some questioned why the next trial could start as late as 2011.

“I filed a complaint related to my forced marriage,” one participant, Yos Phal, a farmer from Takeo, said.

The complaint was rejected, he said. “I want to ask if I can file a new complaint. Is it possible that I can file a new complaint?”

“I lost seven or eight members of my family,” another participant who did not give his name said. “But my complaint was rejected. And then I feel regret.”

Judges Seek To Include Civil Parties: Tribunal

By Kong Sothanarith, VOA Khmer

Original report from Phnom Penh

24 February 2010

Khmer Rouge tribunal judges say they are working to admit as many civil parties into the trial process as possible, following complaints by victims of the regime in a provincial forum on Saturday.

Victims had voiced disappointment in the process of civil party selection for an upcoming trial of five jailed Khmer Rouge leaders, which they said was admitting too few people, in a process that was dragging on.

A tribunal spokesman said Wednesday the judges were reviewing applications “every day,” and that speculation on the number of applicants to be admitted to the trial process was premature.

“As you are aware, [there are] 4,004 applications,” the spokesman, Lars Olsen, said. “So it might take until the closing order in September to review all of them. Everyone has to wait until September before they know the outcome of the application procedure.”

Three hundred applicants had already been accepted by investigating judges, he said. “So it’s clear that the final number of civil party applicants will be significant.”

Less than 50 applications have been rejected so far, he added.

However, Thun Saray, president of the rights group Adhoc, said the court had more work to do in informing the public about the complaint process. People are filing complaints that are outside the purview of the court, he said.

Adhoc sponsored a forum in Kampot province on Saturday, in which victims complained about the civil party application process.

The court could admit all applicants, he said. “What’s the difference between 2,000, or 3,000, or 4,000 admitted applicants?”

Olsen said Wednesday applicants can only be admitted if their claims fall inside the investigation of the court, but the court cannot inform the public of this jurisdiction because that information is confidential.