Sweeping Victim Reforms for Adoption at ECCC

In addition to swearing in newly appointed UN Co-Prosecutor Andrew Cayley, a conclave of judges will meet at the Khmer Rouge tribunal next week to adopt far reaching changes to the way victims participate in the trial process.

The court announced yesterday that new budget requests and proposed amendments to internal procedures will offer victims a far greater range of services than they currently enjoy.

However, confidential draft procedures devised by the court’s nine-judge rules committee appear likely to raise hackles among civil party lawyers, who say the changes may deny fundamental legal rights to Khmer Rouge victims, such as the right to choose a lawyer, and may require their attorneys to bend ethical and professional principles, such as client confidentiality.

As the trial of former S-21 Chairman Kaing Guek Eav concluded in September, judges said the process of including 93 civil parties, divided into four groups each represented by a team of lawyers, had caused repetitive arguing through an unworkable, cumbersome process.

Superficial vetting had exposed some victims to painful defense challenges to their credibility. According to a presentation delivered to NGOs by reserve Judge Claudia Fenz in August, given the high number of anticipated victim claims, the process of vetting civil parties and responding to defense challenges could delay the Khmer Rouge trials until all the current suspects are dead.

Under draft changes proposed by the rules committee, the broad outlines of which were adopted at the last plenary in September, all civil party lawyers will now be subordinate to two lead civil party lawyers who alone will have the right to speak in open court.

While the court had once promised an airing of individual grievances, it now appears ready to offer bulk adjudication.

Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia, which delivered over 1,800 victim complaints and civil party applications to the court, said yesterday that the court should come clean with the victims.

“They court must be honest. That’s what they’re here for,” he said. “If a civil party can no longer speak, they’re no longer a civil party. Just be honest and tell them so.”


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