As the Khmer Rouge tribunal yesterday convened a semiannual judges’ meeting set to alter the court’s system of victim participation and reparations, a group of NGOs called on the court to improve what they said were serious flaws in how it dealt with victims.
In a speech opening the weeklong meeting, Judge Motoo Noguchi of the tribunal’s Supreme Court Chamber named victim participation as one of the biggest challenges facing the court as it moves closer to a trial in its second case, in which some 8,000 members of the public are hoping to participate.
“The majority of this week will be devoted to discussions to amend internal rules concerning victims’ participation and reparations, in particular with a view to making the existing reparation system more meaningful and effective for real and sustained benefit for victims,” he said.
This is the second judges’ conclave in a row devoted to refining the role of victims at the tribunal. In February, judges enacted sweeping reforms to the court’s system of victim participation, narrowing the rights of civil parties but broadening the mandate of the court’s victims unit to include more outreach activities.
But Judge Kong Srim, president of the Supreme Court Chamber, said in a speech yesterday that these changes were not enough.
“The amendments…are not yet significant to fulfill the ECCC’s purpose,” he said. “During this plenary therefore it is important to take into consideration other appropriate reforms for the trial stage in case 002.”
Both judges also appealed once again to donors to continue funding the tribunal, with Judge Srim asking them to “meticulously and highly consider to provide more funds.”
Later, during a part of the meeting not open to the news media, acting Director of Administration Tony Kranh briefed the assembly on “new developments” in the court’s financial situation.
Court spokesman Reach Sambath said that Mr Kranh had reported to judges on how much money the court’s Cambodian and international sides had in their coffers.
The Cambodian side of the tribunal, which has been plagued by budget setbacks, is currently funded except for the victims support section, whose staffers have not been paid since July, Mr Sambath said.
The victims’ office is due to receive a donation from the German government but Mr Sambath said he did not know when the money would arrive.
“They don’t give a clear answer when will the money arrive, they just say they are working on it and this has also created some problems for the victims support section to function their regular duties for the victims,” he said.
At a separate news conference yesterday in Phnom Penh, leaders of six NGOs called on the court to award reparations more liberally, to improve communication with victims and to begin performing the new outreach activities that are part of its mandate.
Many victims participating in the trial of Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, were disappointed in July when they were awarded only minimal reparations. Court rules currently say the cost of reparations must be borne by the accused person, and Duch is indigent.
“We strongly urge the judges of the plenary to add more flexibility to the court’s reparations mandate, in particular by looking beyond the individual accused person and considering additional avenues for the implementation of reparations awards,” the NGOs wrote in a statement.
The groups also expressed concern that the victims support section had not even begun to carry out the extra outreach measures it was mandated in February to perform, and called for the victims’ office to immediately develop a strategic plan for this.