DC-Cam Forwards 321 More Complaints to KR Tribunal

The Documentation Center of Cambodia last week forwarded 321 more victim complaints to the Khmer Rouge tribunal, bringing to 1,150 the total number of petitions at the court’s nascent victims unit, officials said.

Of the new complaints, 317 came from Kompong Thom province, where an estimated 324,547 people died during the Khmer Rouge years and where there are 17 Khmer Rouge-era burial sites, 10 former prison sites and six memorials, according to DC-Cam.

DC-Cam, the country’s largest repository of regime-era documentation, sees its work as part of a process of truth and reconciliation, first begun in the 1980s, when the Hanoi-backed People’s Republic of Kampuchea regime collected highly political complaints—now known as the Renakse Petitions—from victims across the country. DC-Cam is trying to determine whether those Renakse petitioners want to file a fresh complaint with the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia.

Therith Chy, who led a team of 10 DC-Cam staffers, spent three weeks last month in Kompong Thom trying to wrestle this wretched history into a form comprehensible to the ECCC.

The team canvassed 30 villages and found eight of 18 petitioners from 1982 to 1983, all of whom had signed on behalf of large groups of victims. The others had died, moved or were too sick to complete a new complaint form.

Therith Chy said most of the petitioners forgot they had ever filed a complaint and greeted the faded evidence of their participation with pleased surprise.

“They say, ‘This is my writing! My signature! My name!’” he said.

Villager Chhay Vorn, 60, said he filed a complaint with the ECCC because he could not erase the “bitter memory” of those years from his brain. He said people have now started to talk more freely about their suffering.

“They dare to speak out in front of former Khmer Rouge officials,” he said in an interview.

Saut Il, 63, who lost his father and two brothers during the regime, said the fact that prosecution at the tribunal is restricted to top leaders had emboldened him to speak, even in the presence of former Khmer Rouge cadres that still live in his village.

“Hopefully, all victims will dare to file a complaint because it is a good chance for all to grab justice for victims,” he said in an interview.

Only one of the eight Renakse petitioners declined to file an ECCC complaint.

According to a taped interview, the man, who insisted on anony-mity for fear of retribution, told DC-Cam that he believed the ECCC is too politicized to render meaningful justice.

“This court is no justice for real victims because they use tricks to earn foreign donations,” he said. “They delay time to wait for the elderly Khmer Rouge leaders to pass away.”

Only a handful of victims wanted to be civil parties, Therith Chy said. He added that the fact that, as civil parties, they might need a lawyer seemed too daunting for many.

Gabriela Gonzales-Rivas, the deputy head of the Victims Unit, said the court is aware of the challenges of becoming part of a complex legal process.

The Victims Unit is seeking new donor funds. If that money comes through—pending final judicial approval—the unit could provide in-house legal support to civil parties and their lawyers, she added.

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