Cambodians who suffered under the rule of the Khmer Rouge participated for the first time today in the United Nations-backed tribunal trying the movement’s leaders.
Their participation, through their lawyers, was described by the tribunal’s Victims Unit as “a historical day in international criminal law.”
“To date, no international or hybrid tribunal mandated to investigate war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide has involved victims as civil parties, giving them full procedural rights,” the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) Victims Unit said.
Under the tribunal’s rules, victims of crimes committed under the rule of the Khmer Rouge can play an active role in the court’s proceedings as civil parties, with rights including participation in investigations, representation by a lawyer, the ability to call witnesses and question the accused, and to claim reparations for the harm they suffered.
Today’s hearing on the appeal by former Khmer Rouge leader Nuon Chea (aka Brother Number Two) against his provisional detention was adjourned in response to a request by a defence lawyer. A decision on the date of its resumption will be announced on 6 February.
Nuon Chea faces charges of having planned and ordered the murder, torture and enslavement of civilians in the late 1970s.
Under an agreement signed by the UN and Cambodia, the ECCC was set up as an independent court using a mixture of Cambodian staff and judges and foreign personnel. It is designated to try those deemed most responsible for crimes and serious violations of Cambodian and international law between 17 April 1975 and 6 January 1979.