The Khmer Rouge tribunal published on Friday the long-awaited form for victims wishing to take part in the trials.
Posted in English and Khmer at the court’s Web site, www.eccc.gov. kh, the form comes with detailed instructions on how victims, witnesses and civil parties can participate in the tribunal.
Though the court’s planned Victims Unit is yet to be fully staffed and funded, tribunal Public Affairs chief Helen Jarvis said Sunday that prosecutors are actively accepting complaints and co-investigating judges are taking civil party applications, which allow victims to participate in trials and seek compensation.
“The fact that we’re putting the information out there means we’re ready to accept applications,” she said, adding that the Victims Unit is “imminently operational.”
Hisham Mousar, who is monitoring the tribunal for local rights group Adhoc, said the form, which asks for simple biographical information, proof of identity, and basic questions about the alleged crimes, was a good first step.
Still, rural Cambodians, who often have little or no education, will need help to fill out the two-page document, he said. “The question is who will help people fill out this form,” he said. “We don’t have much time. When the trial opens, victims won’t have the right to complain.”
Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia, said that DC-Cam will incorporate the form into its outreach activities, adding that DC-Cam plans to contact nearly 900 potential complainants in October alone.
But he said he fears the form does not go far enough to reassure victims and witnesses that their testimony will be kept confidential. “Not all witnesses will need protection, but in order for as-yet-unknown potentially important witnesses to come forward, clear written guarantees will have to be provided,” he said.
Mousar questioned why the Victims Unit, under the rules published Friday, is charged with providing only administrative, not legal or financial aid. “Former Khmer Rouge have the right to legal aid. Former victims don’t. It’s very unfair,” he said.
Jarvis emphasized that the court as a whole has been set up to serve victims, saying: “The main function of the prosecution is to advance cases in the name of victims.”
Victims’ associations can also lodge complaints on behalf of individual victims, but they first must register with the Ministry of Interior.
Mousar said he fears that requirement could slow things down if the Interior Ministry sets up any obstacles to associations registering.
Jarvis said Sunday that all NGOs have to register with the Ministry of Interior, a requirement that “hasn’t managed to slow down NGOs in this country. We’ve got over 3,000.”
Interior Ministry spokesman Lieutenant General Khieu Sopheak could not be reached for comment.