A new scheme for Civil Party representation before the ECCC: Victims to bear the highest burden in implementing the need for an expeditious trial

Press release

On the conclusion of the 7th Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) Plenary Session that took place from the 2nd to the 9th of February 2010, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and its member organisations in Cambodia, the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC) and the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO), acknowledge the amendments made by the ECCC regarding the legal representation of the Civil Party, but regret that victims have to bear the highest burden to ensure an expeditious trial and that important issues remain unclear.

FIDH, ADHOC and LICADHO fear that as a result of the new representation system, the participation of victims in ECCC proceedings will be merely symbolic if there is no mechanism to guarantee the representation of their interests by the new figures of the Lead Co-Council lawyers. Certain key aspects of the amendments also remain unclear such as the selection process of the Lead Co-Council Lawyers and how Civil Party Lawyers will be guaranteed of the representation of all Civil Party interests, including how to remedy conflict of interests among Civil Parties, and other practical matters of this nature through this untested system of representation.

Our organisations would like to recall that Lead Counsels have to ensure a Civil Parties representation based on cooperation with Civil Parties Lawyers. However, in case of disagreement and according to the new Internal Rules, Lead Counsels have the last word. We therefore recall the importance of a regulation on this matter that respects Civil Party’s rights and interests.

FIDH, ADHOC and LICADHO note that the new rules tend to limit Civil Party’s participation de facto. For example, Civil Party have a 10-day deadline to appeal if their application is rejected. It would be materially impossible to file 2000 estimated rejected appeals in 10 days. Therefore Civil Party’s participation would be de facto very limited. Moreover, the condition that states that Civil Parties have to be linked to the crimes of which the accused will be charged, is a clear reduction of Civil Party’s participation and of NGO’s participation too.

In addition, our organisations urge the ECCC to clarify as soon as possible the single, collective and moral claim for reparation, and to interpret this claim in a way that will take the broadest understanding of its meaning, so as to provide reparation for the widest spectrum of victims, not only Civil Parties, in light of the atrocities afflicted upon the millions of Cambodians under the Khmer Rouge Regime.

Finally, FIDH, ADHOC and LICADHO welcome the enlargement of the duties of the Victims Support Section, (former Victims Unit), to provide a broader range of services to the victims of the Khmer Rouge, not only those represented as Civil Parties. Our organisations urge the Victims Support Section to exercise its new mandate to extend and develop victim-orientated programmes outside of the scope of the ECCC, to explore different programmes that might be able to complement the reparatory mandate of the ECCC.

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