The judges at the United Nations-backed trials of Cambodia’s former Khmer Rouge leaders, accused of mass killings and other horrific crimes during the late 1970s, have unanimously agreed on the rules for the court’s proceedings following nearly a year of negotiations.
Trials will begin soon at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) after national and international judges adopted the internal rules during a plenary session that ended yesterday in the capital, Phnom Penh.
“The process of drafting the internal rules has been a complex one,” the judges said in a joint statement issued today, describing the ECCC as a “unique exercise” in international justice.
“For the first time a hybrid court, taking as its foundation the national law of the country in which it is operating, has incorporated the work of co-investigating judges into its process.”
Negotiations began 11 months ago – when the court’s judges and prosecutors were sworn in – and have been made more complicated by the fact that the judges come from countries with differing legal systems, the statement added.
In this month’s plenary session, the judges resolved their remaining issues, including how to ensure the rights and involvement of victims, who will now have the right to join as civil parties but can only receive collective and non-financial reparation.
Later today the ECCC’s pre-trial chamber is scheduled to meet to swear in the court’s investigators, and prosecutors are expected to file their first introductory submission shortly, allowing the investigating judges to then begin the judicial process.
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.”
Under an agreement signed by the UN and Cambodia, the trial court and a Supreme Court within the Cambodian legal system will investigate those most responsible for crimes and serious violations of Cambodian and international law between 17 April 1975 and 6 January 1979.