The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (the “ECCC”) – more commonly known as the Khmer Rouge Tribunal – conjures a conflicted image of both justice and injustice. It has been plagued by allegations of political interference, a lack of sufficient funding and criticism regarding the length of the procedure. Many senior Khmer Rouge officials have also passed away or been deemed unfit to stand trial, and therefore evaded justice.
Today, 17 October 2014, marks the beginning of the second phase of the trial of two former senior Khmer Rouge officials, Deputy Secretary of the Communist Party of Kampuchea Nuon Chea (88 years-old), more commonly known as Brother Number Two, and Head of State of Democratic Kampuchea Khieu Samphan (82 years-old). During the first phase of their trial they were convicted of crimes against humanity for their roles in the forced movement of people and the execution of Khmer Republic soldiers, and sentenced to life imprisonment.
Case 002/02 will consider allegations of forced marriages and rape, the crime of genocide against Cham and Vietnamese, internal purges, the murder and persecution of Buddhists in Tram Kok District, and the targeting of former Khmer Republic officials. It will also consider crime sites including, amongst others, S-21 Security Centre, Kraing Ta Chan Security Centre, and Tram Kok Cooperative.
The consideration of forced marriages and rape has become a key element of the trial. The Khmer Rouge subjected those between the ages of 18 and 35 to arranged marriages in an attempt to situate the state above concepts of family and religion. Following a state ceremony, couples were forced to consummate their marriage. This nationwide policy has led the ECCC to accept 780 civil parties under the charge of forced marriage, the second largest group of civil parties that the ECCC has admitted.
Cham and Vietnamese minorities also faced dire human rights violations under the Khmer Rouge. Chams, for example, were regularly assassinated and murdered. They were forced to eat pork, remove their hijabs and cut their hair and forbidden to pray. Vietnamese were segregated from Khmers, forbidden to speak their own languages and subjected to ‘ethnic cleansing’. However, years later justice is yet to be delivered for the grave violations suffered, and Case 002/02 may simply be too little too late for many of the victims.
Case 002/02 could be the ECCC’s last opportunity to provide dignity and closure to the victims, and to leaving a lasting positive legacy on the Cambodian domestic courts. Time is running out considering the age of the perpetrators and the victims. Also worrying is the Royal Government of Cambodia’s suggestion that there will not be further trials.
Lois Gauthier, CCHR International Intern, contributed to this blog post.