ECCC Aims for Legacy With New Criminal Procedure Code

The U.N.’s human rights office has published an annotated version of the Cambodian criminal procedure code that explains to judges and prosecutors how the Khmer Rouge tribunal has dealt with procedural issues.

The Khmer Rouge tribunal is a hybrid court, meaning it is located within the Cambodian court system, but has some foreign judges and draws on elements of international law. It uses the Cambodian Code of Criminal Procedure, but tends to apply it more rigorously than domestic courts.

The book, which has been published in English and Khmer, is part of wider efforts by the tribunal to leave a positive legacy on the Cambodian court system. It deals with procedures ranging from how to take suspects into custody to how to issue a final judgment.

Speaking at the launch in Phnom Penh last night, Wan-Hea Lee, country representative of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), said the annotated code would be a useful tool for legal practitioners in the domestic court system.

“In the experience of OHCHR, annotated codes are indispensable tools for daily legal practice that will better ensure respect for human rights,” she said.

The book was the brainchild of William Smith, deputy co-prosecutor at the tribunal, who said the project took more than three years to complete. “The aim was to create a tool to strengthen the rule of law in Cambodia,” he said.

“We didn’t want to see the hard work of the judges and legal practitioners at the ECCC go to waste. We wanted to see it transition into the national courts.”

Ith Rady, an undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Justice, said the annotated code is not officially recognized but will still be an important tool that judges and lawyers can draw upon to improve their work.

“A lot of practices…from the [tribunal] form a foundation for judges, prosecutors and other practitioners in Cambodia. I hope in the future it can become officially recognized by the government.”

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