ECCC Calls for Input on Role of Civil Parties

The Khmer Rouge tribunal on Wednesday called for public input on whether civil parties should be able to participate in pre-trial detention hearings.

The scope of victim participation during investigations has been much debated at the International Criminal Court in the Hague, and the ruling by the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cam­bodia could establish an important legal precedent, lawyers say.

“If it is a well-reasoned decision, it will have a major impact,” said Anne Heindel, a legal advisor at the Documentation Center of Cambodia.

At Nuon Chea’s Feb 7 bail hearing, defense lawyers argued that victims of the Khmer Rouge should only be party to proceedings they have a direct interest in.

However, prosecutors and civil party attorneys urged the court not to limit victim participation in the tribunal.

Pre-trial Chamber judges specifically asked the lawyers for other defendants to submit briefs on the matter, which stands to affect their clients as well.

Khmer Rouge suspects Ieng Thi­rith, Ieng Sary and Khieu Sam­phan all have detention hearings pending. No date has been set, but sources close to the court say a joint hearing could be held sometime in March.

Ang Udom, one of Ieng Sary’s lawyers, said he had no comment on the matter.

“It is up to the court,” he said.

Cambodian Defenders Project attorney Hong Kim Suon, who is representing a civil party he de­clined to name, urged people to sup­port victim involvement at ev­ery stage of the process.

“The civil party’s rights are equal to the rights of the charged person,” he said.

Heindel said that some Inter­national Criminal Court rulings have sought to limit participation to victims who can prove a direct link with the defendant and the specific crimes under consideration.

Far-ranging civil party participation can slow down proceedings and might create prejudice against the accused, who have not yet been formally indicted, Heindel said.

But, in theory, civil parties should have the rights of any other parties.

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