Extraordinary Chambers in the Court of Cambodia: Independence and Impartiality are Key Pre-Requisites of any Credible Process

Press release

The Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee (CHRAC), a Cambodian coalition of 23 NGO members, the Collective for Khmer Rouge Victims (CKRV) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) express their concern about the failure of the plenary session of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) to adopt their Internal Rules. Those Rules are required to start investigating and prosecuting those who bear the greatest responsibility in the Khmer Rouge crimes.

On 25 November 2006, after a one-week session, the national and international judicial officers of the Extraordinary Chambers announced that they did not reach an agreement on the Internal Rules, or even part of them, which would have allowed to start the investigation phase of the proceedings. They acknowledged, however, the importance of such rules, required to start investigations and prosecution.

Cambodian and international judges and prosecutors have substantive disagreement about several key issues, including on already negotiated issues contained in the Agreement between the United Nations and Government of Cambodia. Those issues are of the utmost importance since they are closely linked to the fair trial guarantees. Indeed, even though the Extraordinary Chambers exist "within the Courts of Cambodia" they must operate pursuant to international standards.

In order to ensure respect of the highest standards in terms of independence and impartiality, all questions relating to the functioning of the Extraordinary Chambers should be solved by the Chambers themselves and not be referred to other Cambodian authorities. In particular, criteria of admissibility of defence and victims’ lawyers must be objective and the list of lawyers should be maintained by the Extraordinary Chambers themselves, in conformity with international practice. Victim’s organisations should not be required to register with the Cambodian government prior to being able to file a complaint. Procedures relating to false testimony in the course of the ECCC proceedings should not be referred to ordinary Cambodian courts but remain with the exclusive jurisdiction of the ECCC.

The objective of the government of Cambodia and the United Nations, in establishing the Extraordinary Chambers, aimed at guaranteeing the right to truth and justice for the Cambodian people. The accomplishment of such a historical task must prevail on any other private interest.

The credibility of both the Cambodian authorities and the United Nations is at stake: an acceptable agreement on the Internal Rules must be reached as soon as possible for the Chambers to enter in the operational phase. However, any compromise that would jeopardize the highest standards of independence and impartiality would be unacceptable.

We consequently urge the Extraordinary Chambers to reach as soon as possible an agreement in conformity with fair trial international standards. We also call upon the international community, and in particular the countries which are providing financial support to the Extraordinary Chambers, to closely monitor the developments regarding the Internal Rules.

We reiterate our determination to remain mobilised to help that truth be said regarding the international crimes perpetrated by the Khmer Rouges in Cambodia.

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