Victims of the Khmer Rouge regime on Thursday called for Khmer Rouge tribunal rules to be amended to allow civil parties to receive individual monetary reparations, saying they would protest outside the court to demand the change as Case 002/02 gets underway Friday.
A group of 200 civil parties in the case, who claim to represent a total of 1,780 civil parties at the tribunal, released a statement Thursday slamming the “moral and collective” reparations awarded in the first phase of Case 002 as “worthless for victims and the civil parties.”
Thirteen projects proposed by victims’ lawyers, including sculptures and a national day of remembrance, were approved by judges when Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan were found guilty of crimes against humanity and sentenced to life imprisonment on August 7.
Friday marks the start of the second phase of proceedings against the two former Khmer Rouge leaders, which will begin by examining crimes allegedly committed at a work cooperative in Takeo called Tram Kok and at the Kraing Ta Chan security center, where more than 15,000 people were allegedly killed.
As the case progresses, judges will also consider allegations including genocide against Cham Muslims and the Vietnamese, forced marriages and rape nationwide, and internal purges within the Khmer Rouge.
The disgruntled civil parties plan to protest outside the Khmer Rouge tribunal Friday—as well as petitioning the U.N., the Cambodian government and overseas donors including the U.S., Japan, Germany and Australia—to consider individual reparations in Case 002/02 to heal their “critical suffering and emotional hurt.”
They also want to see the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) building converted into a national library once the trials are complete.
“Any verdict in Case 002/02 should be postponed until the ECCC agrees to amend its internal rules to ensure that the real victims benefit from the reparations,” said Chim Sim, 70, a civil party who was a victim of forced marriage under the Khmer Rouge regime.
“[Without compensation] it means nothing to proceed to the next trial because the verdict will be the same,” he added. “We will get nothing except becoming traumatized—psychological and emotional hurt deep inside our bodies.”
Pen Soeun, 60, who was admitted as a civil party due to his forced labor and a forced marriage during the Khmer Rouge regime, criticized the 13 reparation projects for failing to reflect the desires of civil parties.
“Those 13 reparation projects in Case 002/01 were just made by some NGOs to exploit the victims of Khmer Rouge and civil parties for their own interests,” he said.
Under the rules of the tribunal, reparations are measures deemed to be “moral and collective” in nature and must acknowledge the harm suffered by the civil parties and provide benefits to them to address that harm.
The rules explicitly state that these benefits should not take the form of monetary payments to civil parties.
Lars Olsen, legal communications officer for the tribunal, stressed that the reparations projects awarded in August had been proposed by the victims’ lawyers.
“[A]mendments to the legal framework would have to be presented to the ECCC to allow for individual reparations and so far no one has done that,” he said.
Lor Chunthy, a lawyer from Legal Aid of Cambodia, which represents 1,217 civil parties, said he had raised the reparations request before the Trial Chamber during an initial hearing in the case on July 30.
“It is the right of civil parties to demand individual reparations, but under the existing laws and internal rules at the ECCC, there is no point presenting the individual reparations request.
“If they could get it, it would be great, but it would require an amendment to the laws and internal rules.”
Marie Guiraud, international civil party lead co-lawyer at the ECCC, said she understood the victims’ concerns, but it had been clear from the start of the trials that individual compensation would not be granted.
“We have started a very thorough reparations process in Case 002/02 so we can really understand what they want,” she said.
“What I would say to those who are gathering outside the court tomorrow, I would invite them to participate in the reparations process so they can explain how the reparations projects awarded to date don’t really meet their expectations.”