Much to Learn From ECCC Flaws, Author Says

The innovative “hybrid” structure of the Khmer Rouge tribunal has hampered its functioning since the court’s inception in 2006 and should not be a model for other international courts, according to the co-author of the new book “Hybrid Justice,” who will deliver a lecture on the book in Phnom Penh on Thursday.

The book, which was co-written by John Ciorciari, who is an assistant professor in public policy at the University of Michigan, and Anne Heindel, a legal adviser to the Documentation Center of Cambodia (DC-Cam), was published in May and examines the structure of the court and how this has affected its function.

Mr. Ciorciari said in an interview Wednesday that the court—which is the first of its kind in that it has international features but falls within a domestic legal system—has enjoyed a number of successes, but law students he will be speaking to at the Royal University of Law and Economics should be mindful of the reasons behind its many problems.

“From the perspective of Cambodian law students…it’s also very important to look at the reasons why this court has had problems and why it’s lost efficiency and legitimacy and for students to think about how those can be constructively addressed in the national system,” Mr. Ciorciari said.

“And in some ways, the structure has been helpful, but there have been a lot of ways that it’s been more of an impediment than a help, and for that reason, this model doesn’t deserve emulation; there are elements of the ECCC process that may deserve modified emulation, but for the most part, it gives us lessons on structural design to avoid,” he said.

Some of these avoidable elements include inefficiency, which was increased by the use of three official languages—Khmer, English and French, the latter of which Mr. Ciorciari believes was not necessary—and the need for negotiation between international and national sides of the court on all aspects of the proceedings.

In addition, there have been multiple allegations of corruption and political interference, ongoing funding woes and only one conviction to date.

Still, Mr. Ciorciari said, “[We] don’t think it was entirely baked in the cake—we think that the structure of this court meant that it would be an uphill affair to carry off a judicial success, but didn’t strictly predetermine failure.

“There are still many ways in which the U.N. and donors could have been more constructively engaged from the outset. We think the structure put the U.N. and the donors in a weak position to be able to exercise discipline over the efficiency of the process over issues such as political interference, but we don’t think the structure required the way that the U.N. and the donors have behaved,” he added.

Mr. Ciorciari’s lecture will take place Thursday at the Royal University of Law and Economics at 3 p.m.

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