The Khmer Rouge tribunal’s co-investigating judges on Thursday admitted 56 people as civil parties to the court’s second case and rejected 52 others claiming to be victims of the Pol Pot regime.
The judges, who are grouping their decisions by province, assessed applicants from Ratanakkiri, Mondolkiri and Oddar Meanchey provinces in these most recent rulings. Given an earlier decision on civil party applicants from Kep province, over 50 percent of civil party applications have been rejected so far.
To be accepted as civil parties, applicants must establish facts to the judges’ satisfaction, including their identities and the harm they suffered. Most of last week’s unsuccessful applicants were rejected because they could not demonstrate a direct link between their alleged injuries and the specific crimes being investigated.
This requirement was written into the court’s internal rules in February, after a deadline for civil party applications in January. The court only publicized specific information about the scope of the three-year-plus investigation in November.
Silke Studzinsky, who represents more than 500 prospective civil parties, said yesterday this amounted to a shifting standard of proof.
“They applied a standard which is different from that which existed before,” she said. “The NGOs had only the [old] internal rules when they made the outreach and talked to the victims.”
But court spokesman Lars Olsen reiterated that the rule change was immaterial.
“The change of the rule had no material effect on being within the scope of the investigation,” he said.
Anne Heindel, legal adviser to the Documentation Center of Cambodia, which helped would-be civil parties lodge applications, said that although the direct harm provision was always implicit in the rules, the court should have made this clear to the NGOs that collected the vast majority of civil party applications.
“It was a confusing process and they could have been clearer from the start how they were going to apply that terminology about the harm,” she said.
The judges said in a statement yesterday that rejected applications “should in no way bring into question the recognition that the applicants are victims.”