ECCC Concludes Plenary, Again Changes Civil Party Role

The Khmer Rouge tribunal on Friday concluded its fifth plenary session of judges, making changes to 27 of the court’s procedural rules, including yet more amendments governing the participation of civil parties, or victims officially admitted as parties to the trials.

At conclaves held twice a year, the tribunal’s judges meet to review and adopt proposed chan­ges to the court’s internal procedures. At the fourth meeting, held in September, the judges imposed a deadline of 10 days before the start of trial for victims to apply to become civil parties and also empowered the court to compel vic­tims to form groups collectively represented by lawyers.

The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia is the only modern tribunal to allow the full participation of victims as parties to trials. However, the changes have caused some organizations and civil parties to complain of increasing restrictions on their role at the court.

At this week’s meeting, the court changed rules to require that only civil party lawyers, and not their clients, may make legal arguments in open court. The judges also removed a 90-day time limit on deliberations at the end of trial.

“The amendments do not limit the rights of civil parties but instead modify the manner in which these rights are to be exercised due to the extremely large number of civil parties before ECCC proceedings,” the court said in a statement Friday, which noted that the rules did not apply to civil party interviews or to questions put to civil parties in court.

In remarks at the opening of the plenary Monday, Supreme Court Chamber President Kong Srim said that by the end of February the court had received 3,214 complaints including 1,409 civil party applications.

Ninety-four people have at least been provisionally recognized as victims in the trial of former S-21 Chairman Kaing Guek Eav.

Brianne McGonigle, one of four lawyers representing 38 civil parties in one of four groups in the S-21 trial, said Friday she felt the court had to strike a difficult balance.

“I understand the court’s interest in trying to make the proceedings meaningful for victims and efficient and effective for all parties,” she said.

 

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