Khmer Rouge tribunal judges adopt internal court rules

[JURIST] Judges of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) [official website] said Wednesday that they have unanimously adopted [press release, PDF] internal rules for the ECCC following the conclusion of a two-week meeting that convened [JURIST reports] on May 31. The judges said the new rules would facilitate "fair, transparent trials before an independent and impartial court." The rules are designed to integrate Cambodian law with the structure of the UN-Cambodian hybrid court, and cover a range of issues, including establishing the burden of proof for a conviction at the beyond reasonable doubt standard, and allowing victims to join lawsuits as civil parties, but without the right to obtain individual financial compensation. In addition, the ECCC will guarantee that defendants have "an effective team of Co-Lawyers, one Cambodian and one foreign." Prosecution teams will also be structured in the same manner. The judges said they were "acutely aware that the Cambodian people have waited a long time for this process to get under way" and stressed their commitment to "completing these trials in a timely manner while ensuring the highest standards of justice are upheld."

The Defense Support Section (DSS) of the ECCC welcomed [statement, PDF] the adoption of the rules as a "great achievement and important step to ensure fair trials." The DSS, however, expressed its disappointment that the ECCC will not allow local-Cambodian defense lawyers to appear before the court on a "stand-in" basis, saying that having to wait for "foreign lawyers to fly in" for short hearings, which increases the cost of the tribunal and could possibly cause further delays. Other international tribunals, such as the Special Court for Sierra Leone, the Sarajevo War Crimes Chamber of the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the International Criminal Court [official websites] allow comparable "stand-in" arrangements.

Tribunal judges have struggled with integrating international criminal law with Cambodian law, which is heavily influenced by the French legal system. The internal rules for the tribunal have been a source of intense controversy for months. Judges failed to reach an agreement at a November 2006 meeting and at a subsequent meeting [JURIST reports] in January 2007. A March meeting made progress [JURIST report], but still left unresolved details concerning fees and other procedural details. The legal fees dispute was finally resolved in late April [JURIST report]. The ECCC was established by a 2001 law [text as amended 2005, PDF] to investigate and try those responsible for the Cambodian genocide that occurred under the 1975-1979 Khmer Rouge [MIPT backgrounder; JURIST news archive] regime. The genocide resulted in the deaths of over 1.7 million people from maltreatment, disease and malnutrition. To date, no top Khmer Rouge officials have faced trial. Questions have been raised concerning exactly how many of the Khmer Rouge's top officials will face the tribunal, as several of those responsible for the genocide have recently died [JURIST report] and others are in failing health. AP has more.

 

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