Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia

Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia

The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia for the Prosecution of Crimes Committed During the Period of Democratic Kampuchea, commonly known as Cambodia Tribunal, is a joint court established by the Royal Government of Cambodia and the United Nations to try senior members of the Khmer Rouge for crimes against humanity, including genocide.


In 1997, Cambodia established a Khmer Rouge Trial Task Force to create a legal and judicial structure to try the remaining leaders for war crimes and other crimes against humanity, but progress was slow. The government said that due to the poor economy and other financial commitments, it could only afford limited funding for the tribunal. Several countries, including Canada, India and Japan, came forward with extra funds, but by January 2006, the full balance of funding was not yet in place.

Nonetheless, the Task Force began its work and took possession of two buildings on the grounds of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) High Command headquarters in Kandal province just on the outskirts of Phnom Penh. In March 2006, the Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, nominated seven judges for a trial of the Khmer Rouge leaders.

In May 2006, Justice Minister Ang Vong Vathana announced that Cambodia's highest judicial body approved 30 Cambodian and U.N. judges to preside over the long-awaited genocide tribunal for surviving Khmer Rouge leaders. The judges were sworn in early July 2006.cite news | title=Judges sworn in for Khmer Rouge |date=2006-07-03 | publisher="BBC News" | url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/asia-pacific/5140032.stm ]


Under the agreement between Cambodia and the UN, the tribunal is to be composed of both local and international judges.

Both the Pre-Trial Chamber and the Trial Chamber are composed of three Cambodian and two international judges, while a Supreme Court Chamber is made up of four Cambodian judges and three international judges.

All international judges have been appointed by the Supreme Council of the Magistracy of Cambodia from a list of nominees submitted by the UN Secretary-General. There are also Reserve judges who may be called upon to serve in the event of an emergency.

The judges will serve out their terms until the Tribunal completes its work.

The current judges are:

Supreme Court Chamber


* Robert Petit
* Chea Lang

Investigating Judges

* Marcel Lemonde
* You Bun Leng

Principal Defender

* Rupert Skilbeck


On July 19, 2007, the prosecutors submitted a list of five charged persons to the Tribunal's Co-Investigating Judges, and requested that they be indicted and brought to trial. To date, only Kang Khek Ieu, also known as Duch, has been indicted; the other four charged persons remain under judicial investigation. [ [http://www.cambodiatribunal.org/CTM/Closing_order_indicting_Kaing_Guek_Eav_ENG.pdf "Closing Order Indicting Khang Khek Ieu"] August 8, 2008.]

Khang Khek Ieu

On July 31, 2007, the Tribunal indicted the first suspect: Khang Khek Ieu, also known as "Duch". After the death of Ta Mok ("The Butcher") while in custody in July 2006, Khang Khek Ieu remained the only member of the regime imprisoned and awaiting trial. He used to be the governor of the Tuol Sleng prison, a centre of torture. In the late 1970s, an estimated 16,000 people were tortured there, of whom only seven or ten are known to have survived. Khang Khek Ieu, who converted to Christianity, admitted guilt, but contends that everything he did was by order of others.

Nuon Chea

On September 19, 2007, Nuon Chea, the chief political ideologist of the Khmer Rouge and right-hand man of Pol Pot, was arrested and put in the custody of the Tribunal. He was brought to Phnom Penh and charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/7002053.stm "Senior Khmer Rouge leader charged"] , "BBC News", 19 September, 2007]

The second of five central figures recommended for trial, Nuong Chea is the highest ranking official to be detained. Although he is quoted in a September 2007 Associated Press interview as being ready to face the tribunal, he has consistently denied any wrongdoing. "I was president of the National Assembly and had nothing to do with the operation of the government," he said in the interview. "Sometimes I didn't know what they were doing because I was in the assembly." At 82 years old, he may never live to see the trials which are finally scheduled to begin in early 2008.

Ieng Sary and Ieng Thirith

Two more arrests took place on November 12, 2007. Former Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Ieng Sary, and his wife, former Minister of Social Affairs Ieng Thirith, were taken from their home in Phnom Penh by police and by officials of the Tribunal. Both are charged with crimes against humanity, Ieng Sary with war crimes as well.

According to a filing by the prosecutors of July 18, 2007, of which The Associated Press obtained a copy, Ieng Sary, "promoted, instigated, facilitated, encouraged and/or condoned the perpetration of the crimes" when the Khmer Rouge held power. His wife, Ieng Thirith, is believed to have participated in "planning, direction, coordination and ordering of widespread purges ... and unlawful killing or murder of staff members from within the Ministry of Social Affairs". [ [http://www.chinapost.com.tw/headlines/2007/11/12/50276/Police-enter.htm Police enter home of Khmer Rouge ex-foreign minister] "The China Post", 12 November, 2007,]

Khieu Samphan

Former Chief of State Khieu Samphan was arrested on 19 November, 2007, in Phnom Penh when he left the hospital where he had been treated for a stroke he reportedly suffered on 13 November, 2007. ["Ex-Khmer Rouge Head of State Arrested", "The Associated Press", 19 November, 2007] He was charged with crimes against humanity and war crimes. Presumably this arrest means that all five suspects listed for indictment by the prosecutors on 19 July, 2007 are now indicted and in detention.

The Hearings

On 4 February, 2008, the tribunal held its first hearing. Webcasts of these hearings and copies of legal documents filed by the parties and the tribunal can be viewed online at the Cambodia Tribunal Monitor website. [ [http://www.cambodiatribunal.org/ Cambodia Tribunal Monitor] ]


The former king of Cambodia Sihanouk expressed opposition to the tribunal, saying it will only try a handful of those responsible and that its budget would be better spent at alleviating poverty. He was critical that the tribunal intends to try a handful of "old, sickly, unrepentant individuals," when the true number of those was in the hundreds of thousands. [http://english.peopledaily.com.cn/200607/10/eng20060710_281633.html]

The current Prime Minister of Cambodia Hun Sen has repeatedly warned that the proceedings could cause panic among Khmer Rouge supporters and reignite the civil war that occurred throughout the 1980s and into the 1990s. Hun Sen felt that if foreign jurists formed a majority on the tribunal -- as the United Nations has wanted -- then it would be a violation of national sovereignty. [http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Southeast_Asia/HK28Ae01.html]

Some have pointed out that the tribunal gives a free pass to United States officials for dragging Cambodia into the Vietnam War, killing hundreds of thousands and giving rise to the Khmer Rouge. [http://www.inthesetimes.com/article/1438/dust_and_bones/]


Related external links

* [http://www.cambodiatribunal.org/ Cambodia Tribunal Monitor]
* [http://www.eccc.gov.kh/ The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia- Official site]
* [http://www.unakrt-online.org/ United Nations Assistance to the Khmer Rouge Trials- Official site]
* [http://www.cambodia.gov.kh/krt/ The Khmer Rouge Trial Task Force]
* [http://www.yale.edu/cgp/news.html Tribunal News from the Cambodian Genocide Program] in Yale University
* [http://www.genocidewatch.org/news/CAMBODIA.htm Khmer Rouge Tribunal Updates] from Genocide Watch
* [http://www.genocidewatch.org/news/cgp.htm The Cambodian Genocide Project]
* [http://ecccreparations.blogspot.com/ General ECCC Watch/ECCC Reparations Process Watch]

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