Civil Society Urges the Cambodian Government to fully Implement the Statute of the International Criminal Court

Recommendations to set essential standards for prosecution of the Khmer Rouge and for the rule of law in the future

On 5 May 2006 more than 50 representatives of Cambodian and international Human Rights NGOs gathered to launch a report prepared by the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) with the active participation of the Cambodian Association for Human Rights and Development (ADHOC) on the implementation of the Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), ratified by Cambodia on 11 April 2002.

NGOs endorsed the recommendations contained in the Report on "Implementation of the Rome Statute in Cambodian law" [1] .

The ICC is the first permanent international criminal court with jurisdiction over genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes committed by nationals or on the territory of State Parties after 1 July 2002. Cambodia is one of the only Asian States to be a party to this historic institution.

At a time when the Cambodian authorities have finally set up a mechanism to counter past impunity of Khmer Rouge leaders for international crimes, the Cambodian authorities should reinforce their commitment to the ICC by fully implementing the Statute in national law thereby sending a strong signal to future perpetrators of the most heinous crimes that impunity will no longer be tolerated.

The Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee (CHRAC) and FIDH welcome the milestone decision of the Supreme Council of Magistrates (SCM) on 4 May to name the Cambodian and international judges of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC). This signifies the effective establishment of the ECCC, a long awaited mechanism for victims. However, civil society will remain vigilant concerning the respect of international standards by the ECCC. In particular, it is essential that all judges show full independence and impartiality, high-level competence and language skills [2].

The FIDH and the CHRAC recall that the Statute of the ICC requires Cambodia to implement two main types of obligation. Firstly, Cambodia needs to adapt the necessary provisions to fulfil its obligation of cooperation with the Court. Secondly, Cambodia must introduce crimes within the jurisdiction of the ICC and general principles of criminal law into domestic law in order to be able to try the perpetrators of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. The ICC can only try such crimes if Cambodian courts are unwilling or unable to investigate or prosecute alleged perpetrators; the primary responsibility rests within the national courts.

In September 2005, FIDH in cooperation with its member organisation ADHOC and with the support of its other member organisation the Cambodian League for Human Rights (LICADHO) launched a technical assistance mission composed of two Cambodian consultants on the implementation of the ICC Statute in Cambodian law.

The release of the mission report is timely as it coincides with ongoing discussions concerning much-needed revision of the Cambodian code of criminal procedure and criminal code.

The conclusions in the report build on the draft codes prepared by the Cambodian Ministry of Justice with the technical assistance of the French authorities. The draft code of criminal procedure sets essential standards, which strengthen the national justice system. Whilst acknowledging the need for such legislation be adopted promptly, FIDH and CHRAC believe it presents a unique opportunity for the simultaneous implementation of the ICC Statute in Cambodian domestic law.

In addition, FIDH and CHRAC believe that the draft code of criminal procedure will be an extremely important tool for future trials before the ECCC. This new set of rules should guarantee that essential standards of criminal justice will be applied in trials of the Khmer Rouge. Should the ECCC start functioning before the adoption of the draft code of criminal procedure, FIDH and CHRAC urge the judges of the ECCC to incorporate the relevant provisions of the draft code in the core of its internal rules.

FIDH and CHRAC believe that victims must be guaranteed effective access to independent and impartial courts. The ICC provides a historic set of rights for victim participation, protection, representation and reparation. FIDH and CHRAC urge Cambodia, as a State party to the ICC, to ensure that these fundamental rights are also guaranteed in the Khmer Rouge trials [3]. After more than 30 years, justice for victims is a central element of the search for truth and the fight against impunity.

For more information regarding to this statement:

- Mr. Thun Saray, Chairman of CHRAC and President of ADHOC - Tel: +855 (0)16 880 509
- Mr. Sok Sam Oeun,Executive Director of CDP - Tel: +855 (0)12 901 199
- Dr. Kek Galabru,President of LICADHO - Tel: +855 (0)12 940 645
- Mrs. Nay Dina, Executive Director of KID - Tel: +855 (0)11 924 286
- Mr. Chiv Youmeng, President of KYA - Tel: +855 (0)12 772 271
- Mrs. Jeanne Sulzer, FIDH - Tel: +33 (0)6 12 18 06 41
- Ms. Karine Appy, FIDH Press - Tel: +33 (0)1 43 55 14 12

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