The Khmer Rouge tribunal’s four accused are to be held to account next year for the former regime’s policy of forced marriage and the rapes committed within those marriages.
But Silke Studzinsky, a lawyer representing more than 500 people claiming to be victims of the regime, said yesterday that the full extent of sexual violence under the regime would go overlooked in the coming trial.
The court will not prosecute rape outside of marriage, which judges concluded was not a government policy. Legal experts yesterday discussed war crimes based on gender at a conference organized by the Cambodian Defenders Project in Phnom Penh.
Ms Studzinsky told the conference that sexual violence was not included in prosecutors’ initial allegations in 2007 and was therefore neglected in the judicial investigation.
The court’s four accused were indicted in September for crimes including rape within forced marriage, but no other forms of sexual violence, even though evidence suggests that rape perpetrators went unpunished if they were deemed reliable party members, she said.
“There has been a failure to properly include sexual violence,” Ms Studzinsky, noting that the court had no female investigators and claiming that sexual violence had not been adequately examined in last year’s trial of secret police chairman Kaing Guek Eav.
Lars Olsen, legal communications officer at tribunal, said the court had indeed investigated sexual violence, particularly rape, but that evidence was not found to suggest that government leaders had a policy of rape.
“Sexual violence was investigated, but evidence was exculpatory,” Mr Olsen said.
The court’s co-investigating judges concluded that rape had taken place in diverse circumstances, including security centers, but Communist Party of Kampuchea policy was to prevent its occurrence and punish perpetrators.
“Despite the fact that this policy did not manage to prevent rape, it cannot be considered that rape was one of the crimes used by the CPK leaders to implement the common purpose,” a copy of the closing order said.
However, rape was used in the context of forced marriage because the party required marital consummation and couples that refused would regularly be arrested, it said.
Nakagawa Kasumi, who teaches gender studies at Pannasastra University, said rape was widespread under the Khmer Rouge.
“It was very common inside marriage and outside,” Ms Kusumi said.
Sometimes women were systematically raped before their executions, she said.
Given the absence of rape prosecutions outside of forced marriages, much of the victims’ suffering will not come to light in the courtroom, she said. “It’s very, very sad,” she said, adding that women need to be mobilized to speak out about their experiences despite social taboos.
Chim Manavy, executive director of the Open Institute, said that currently there was not enough research to know the extent of sexual violence during the Pol Pot regime. “No one dared to talk about this…. It is an untold story,” Ms Manavy said.