Opening of the first trial of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Court of Cambodia

27/03/2009
Press release

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), welcome the opening of the first trial of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) against Kaing Guek Eav, alias ‘Duch’, on March 30.

"The first trial of the ECCC is a historic moment for all the victims of the former Khmer Rouge, who have waited for 30 years to see justice done", declared Souhayr Belhassen, president of FIDH.

Duch faces charges of crimes against humanity and grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 1949, in addition to the offences of homicide and torture under Cambodian criminal law. He is accused of having planned, instigated, ordered, committed or aided and abetted (by virtue of his responsibility in the chain of command) the crimes in the main security centre of the regime, S-21 also known as Toul Sleng, and in S-24 (Prey Sar) and the Choeung Ek execution site, between 1975 and 1979.

Through this first trial, concerning Case 001, the ECCC should establish and strictly apply the principles of fair and independent justice. We welcome the significant progress that the ECCC has made towards to this goal, and acknowledge the efforts the Court has made to make the trial a success.
However we are concerned that since its establishment in 2006, the ECCC has faced persistent allegations of corruption and political interference [1].

Furthermore, although the ECCC is the first international criminal jurisdiction to recognise the rights of victims to participate as civil parties, the ECCC has in practice undermined the rights originally accorded to victims. The latest example of these restrictions, is the ECCC’s revision of the Internal Rules in March 2009, which removed the right of Civil Parties to directly address the Court, and maintained restrictive deadlines on victims applications to join the trial as Civil Parties, limited their appeal rights, limited their right to choose their own lawyers, and prohibited victims, or their legal representatives, from making opening statements at the start of the trial. The Internal Rules are increasingly restricting victims’ rights and demonstrate a concerning tendency by the ECCC to narrow the role of victims in this Tribunal.

A second trial, concerning Case 002, will take place at a later stage, against four senior leaders of the Khmer rouge regime, NUON Chea, IENG Sary, IENG Thirith, and KHIEU Samphan.

FIDH, ADHOC and LICADHO hope that these trials will finally ensure that Cambodian people see fair justice for the crimes committed during the Khmer Rouge regime.

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