Survivors of the Khmer Rouge regime might eventually receive free legal assistance allowing them to participate in the upcoming trials of the regime’s former leaders, if a Paris-based legal organization’s recommendations are heeded.
Created in 2004, Justice pour le Cambodge, or Justice for Cambodia, will offer free help to people who consider themselves victims of the Khmer Rouge by referring them to volunteer lawyers, according to the group’s Web site.
The organization aims “to see that the victims are able to participate in the trials with the help of volunteer lawyers,” JPLC member Jean Reynaud said in an interview in Phnom Penh.
“If there was anything to be done so that there would be a bit more justice for the victims of the Khmer Rouge, it had to be done,” he said.
“Our impression is that the vast majority of Cambodians feel that this trial is necessary,” Reynaud said.
In France and Cambodia, people who have suffered from a criminal act can be named “civil parties” to criminal proceedings and seek compensation from the accused, according to JPLC member Jean Rivet.
It is too early to say whether the tribunal will function in this way, Helen Jarvis, chief of public affairs for the tribunal, said on Thursday.
“We haven’t started the judicial work yet,” Jarvis said. She referred further questions to an information pamphlet produced by the tribunal, according to which no decision has yet been made as to whether the tribunal can hear such claims.
Chief among the suggestions in a white paper produced by a group of seven organizations, including Justice pour le Cambodge, is that victims be allowed to participate in the tribunal, according to Reynaud.
The document was to be presented to government officials and trial administrators this week, he said.
Jarvis confirmed that she had met with Reynaud and Rivet and said she would pass their suggestions along.
“We’ve heard what they’re saying and we will transmit it to the judicial officers,” she added.