The Khmer Rouge Trials: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

As the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia prepares its final verdict, a look back at its legacy.

Irrespective of what the United Nations says, on November 16, the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), better known as the Khmer Rouge war crimes trial, will hand down their final verdicts. Like most of the UN war crimes trials since the end of the Cold War, the legacy of the ECCC is part good, part bad, and part ugly. In the end, the $300 million dollar court took longer to convict three defendants than it did for the United States, England, and France to try nearly 5,000 war criminals after World War II. Within the spectrum of political justice the ECCC stands above farces like the American “trials” at Guantanomo Bay or spectacles of primitive political justice like the Yamashita Case, but far below flawed, yet ultimately successful trials like Nuremberg’s International Military Tribunal. It would be easier to consider the ECCC “a success” had its boosters in the UN and the human rights industry not raised expectations so high and oversold it so grossly.

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