Creation of new legal unit for victims under way at KRT

The Khmer Rouge tribunal is in the process of establishing a separate section for its new civil party lead co-lawyers that will be independent from the existing victims unit, a court spokesman said yesterday.

However the new unit will not be fully operational until a foreign lead co-lawyer is hired. Along with his Cambodian counterpart Pich Ang, the foreign lawyer will serve as head of the section as well as overseeing the legal representation of more than 2,000 alleged victims participating in the court’s second trial.

“It’s being established now,” said Lars Olsen, the court’s legal communications officer. “They have already started the recruitment and…the section will be fully operational when we have both lead co-lawyers.”

Mr Olsen said it was still unclear how large the new unit would be.

“I don’t have the details on that at the moment because it will also partly be a question for the new co-lead lawyers but both of them aren’t there now to deal with the issue of staffing,” he said.

Although the two lead co-lawyer jobs were created more than seven months ago, a foreign lead lawyer has still not been chosen, prompting criticism from victims’ advocates.

Mahdev Mohan, a civil party lawyer, wrote in an e-mail last week that he was “very concerned” the position remained vacant.

“It is imperative that the international co-lead lawyer be appointed as soon as possible so that s/he gets a chance to properly understand the complexities of representing Cambodian survivors of mass crime,” he said.

The court’s victims unit also announced yesterday it was recruiting staff members to help it develop outreach activities for victims of the Khmer Rouge regime who are not participating in the trials.

The unit was mandated in February to perform these “non-judicial measures” but has not yet done so. Outreach coordinator Im Sophea said they would probably be implemented starting in 2012 or late 2011, although he declined to comment on what form they would take.

“It’s still a very early stage,” he said. “We need to do more consultation with experts, civil parties and other victims…. I cannot say it is A or B yet because it is still under the discussion.”


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