The trial of Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch (Case 001), at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) was the first in the history of international
criminal justice in which surviving victims of alleged crimes could participate directly in international criminal proceedings as civil parties. In this study, we interviewed all 75 civil parties residing in Cambodia, including those who had ultimately been denied civil party status at the conclusion of the trial in Case 001. The objective was to learn about their experiences in participating in the ECCC proceedings. The results are compared with data from a nationwide survey of the general population. The results show that the Cambodian civil parties viewed positively their overall experience of participating and testifying. However, civil parties who had their status denied felt anger, helplessness, shame, and worthlessness. Compared to the overall population who lived under the Khmer Rouge, civil parties were more negative about the impact of the trial on their (1) acceptance of loss and reaching closure, (2) forgiveness of the perpetrators, and (3) perceptions as to whether the trial had improved the rule of law in Cambodia. Many civil parties lacked understanding about key aspects of the trial, including sentencing. The
results emphasize the importance of victims’ participation in the proceedings, but also suggest that participation alone is unlikely to bring about healing, closure, and reconciliation for the victims. Future international courts must develop the resources and mechanisms that ensure a meaningful and effective participation of
victims, and engage participants in a dialogue over procedures and expectations.