A coalition of human rights groups on Wednesday called for renewed efforts to establish a trust fund at the Khmer Rouge tribunal for victims of the Pol Pot regime.
In a proposal submitted to the court’s nine-member rules committee, which is meeting this week, a group of lawyers representing 18 victims in the S-21 trial again called on the court to change its internal rules to allow such a fund.
The rules committee vets proposed changes to the court, which are then jointly considered by all the court’s judges at biannual meetings. Due to internal confusion, similar proposals made in January were ignored by the same committee.
According to the court’s rules, any reparations awarded to victims at the Khmer Rouge tribunal will be only “collective and moral” and must be paid by those who are convicted.
All of the court’s current detainees have been declared too poor to pay for their own defense, meaning they would be unable to pay reparations either.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, the Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee said that the rules should be changed to allow for other sources of funding for reparations.
In draft changes submitted on April 30, lawyers for the civil party group also called for broadening civil party procedural rights and new rules governing evidence arising from acts of sexual violence during the regime.
The idea of reparations has not received universal support; critics say it would reduce suffering to a monetary sum and provide money for the relatively small number of civil parties, rather than all victims of the Khmer Rouge.
Other possibilities for reparations include charitable endowments and the creation of public monuments.
Civil Party lawyer Silke Studzinsky said Wednesday that a trust fund could be established to allow all victims, and not just civil parties, to seek payments.
“There must be a possibility to submit an application to the victims trust fund,” she said.
Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia, said Wednesday that the promise of money risked distorting victims’ expectations of the legal process. “First of all, how much is enough?” he said. “There’s nothing to lose to ask but I don’t think it’s what the victim is looking for.”