German attorney Silke Studzinsky on Friday became the first foreign lawyer authorized to represent victims before the Khmer Rouge tribunal.
Studzinsky, who was sworn in at Cambodia’s Court of Appeal on Friday morning, said in an interview Sunday that she plans to serve as co-counsel for three of the five civil parties at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia. The German aid group DED will pay her salary for at least two years, she said, adding that victims do not have to pay for her services.
“I am independent and not under the supervision of DED in representing cases. My decisions are taken with my client on how to act and what to do,” she said.
Studzinsky estimated that about 700 victims have filed complaints with the court, at least 200 of whom want to be civil parties.
Studzinsky said that unlike the ECCC, the International Criminal Court in The Hague, where she is also a registered attorney, will cover the cost of victim lawyers.
Studzinsky said she was also troubled by the fact that the ECCC cannot pay for transport and accommodation for indigent civil parties who want to attend court hearings. “What is a right if you can’t perform it because you don’t have money?” she said.
Tribunal spokesman Reach Sambath said the court is in talks with an international NGO to secure more funding for victims.
A lawyer in Berlin for 17 years, Studzinsky defended Harald Gloede, a member of the radical German left-wing guerilla group Revolutionary Cells, and has represented victims of trafficking, rape and racial hate crimes in German domestic courts, she said.
Studzinsky said she hoped her work before the ECCC would have both national and international resonance.
“Everybody is afraid of giving victims more rights because they think it’s not possible to deal with a lot of victims present in court,” she said. “This is a chance to show that it is possible.”