Dispensation of Justice by the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia: A Critical Appraisal

Author:M. Ehteshamul Bari
Position:Lecturer (on leave for study) at Department of Law, Manarat International University. Diploma in Law (London), LL.B. (Hons. London), LL.B. (1st Class Hons. Dhaka), LL.M. (Distinction Malaya, Kuala Lumpur)
Pages:193-216
SUMMARY

This article examines the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia established to try those responsible for the atrocities perpetrated against the Cambodian people by the former Khmer Rouge Regime (1975-1979). It focuses on the trial of the first case conducted by the ECCC which resulted in the ‘lenient’ judgment. The paper then outlines in details the factors such as political... (see full summary)

 
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Dispensation of Justice by
the Extraordinary
Chambers in the Courts of
Cambodia: A Critical
Appraisal
M. Ehteshamul Bari
This article examines the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia
established to try those responsible for the atrocities perpetrated against the
Cambodian people by the former Khmer Rouge Regime (1975-1979). It focuses on the
trial of the first case conducted by the ECCC which resulted in the lenient
judgment. The paper then outlines in details the factors such as political interference,
corrupt practices and inordinate delay of the legal process which are undermining the
ECCCs credibility to administer fair justice to the victims of genocide, crimes against
humanity and war crimes. Finally, it stresses on the fact that the failure of the ECCC
and its stakeholders to duly address these fundamental issues would end in the
farcical dispensation of justice.
Keywords
ECCC, War Crimes, Crimes against Humanity, Genocide, Political
Interference, Corruption and Inordinate Delay
KFBJM2)3122* DbncpejboXbsDsjnftDpvsu 193
* Lecturer (on leave for study) at Department of Law, Manarat International University. Diploma in Law (London),
LL.B. (Hons. London), LL.B. (1st Class Hons. Dhaka), LL.M. (Distinction Malaya, Kuala Lumpur). The author may be
contacted at: mebari07@gmail.com / Address: Bungalow No-55, Jalan (Street)-16/2, Section-16, 46350 Petaling Jaya,
Selangor, Malaysia.
I. Introduction
The Ultra-MaoistKhmer Rouge, which came to power in Cambodia in 1975 and
deposed by the Vietnamese troops after nearly 4 years of its reign in 1979, annihilated
1.7 million people in the killing fields- about a quarter of Cambodias population at
that time.
1
In order to do justice to the victims of the mass atrocities of the Khmer Rouge
regime, and to achieve the wider objective of preventing the perpetration of such mass
atrocities in the future, the United Nations assisted the Cambodian government to
establish the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), a hybrid
tribunal.
2
It became fully functional in June 2007 after lengthy and troublesome
negotiations,
3
to bring to trial seniorand most responsible leadersof the Khmer
Rouge
4
accused of committing genocide,
5
war crimes,
6
crimes against humanity,
7
and
194 N/F/Cbsj
1The communist Khmer Rouge under the leadership of Pol Pot backed by China opposed the Government led by
popular leader Norodom Sihanouk. It gained support after Sihanouk was toppled by Lon Nol (1970) having the
support and blessings of the United States. In between the two forces, a new force of communist Vietnamese fighters
emerged and sought refuge in the neutral territory that was Cambodia at that time. Ultimately, secret US bombings,
which allegedly caused more than 150,000 casualties, probably paved the way for Pol Pot, the leader of communist
Khmer Rouge, and his troops to take up power. On April 17, 1975, Pol Pots troops marched into Phnom Penh. Their
proclamation of Year Zeroopened up an era of terror and horror. In one single week, the 2.5 million citizens from
Phnom Penh were forced out to the countryside. The Ultra-Maoist Khmers mercilessly held to the maxim: Keeping
you is no benefit, losing you is no loss.The regime launched a revolution in which all pre-existing economic, social
and cultural institutions were destroyed, all foreign influences were wiped out and the entire population was
transformed into a collective work force. The Khmer Rouge set out to kill anyone who could possibly thwart its goal of
creating a new society, including those among its own ranks whom were viewed as potential dissidents. It perceived
intellectualssuch as doctors, teachers, lawyers, students and those capable of speaking a foreign language as
particularly threatening a the mere fact of appearing to be intellectual by wearing spectacles was sufficient reason to
be condemned to death. An unknown number of persons were thrown into slavery, arbitrarily executed, or died of
starvation, disease or exhaustion in labour camps. In the space of 4 years, the Khmer Rouge genocide extinguished
1.7 million people in the killing fields,or about a quarter of Cambodias population at that time. For further
information,
see
II B
RITANNICA
R
EADY
R
EFERENCE
E
NCYCLOPAEDIA
134 (2007); Wendy Lambourne,
The Khmer Rouge
Tribunal: Justice for Genocide in Cambodia?
3-4 (Law and Society Association and New Zealand (LSAANZ)
Conference, University of Sydney, Working Paper, Dec. 10
12, 2008),
available at
http://ses.library.usyd.edu.au/bitstream/
2123/4042/1/LSAANZ%20Lambourne%20Cambodia%20conf%20paper%20final.pdf (last visited on Mar. 10, 2010);
Trial Watch,
Criminal Court for Cambodia, available at
http://www.trial-ch.org/index.php?id=923&L=5 (last visited
on Mar. 12, 2010). The Secretary-General,
Report of the Group of Experts for Cambodia Established Pursuant to
General Assembly Resoluation 52/135
, 53d Sess., Agenda Item 110(b), U.N. Doc. A/53/850, at 9 & 13 (March 16,
1999); Theresa Klosterman,
The Feasibility and Propriety of a Truth Commission in Cambodia: Too Little? Too
Late?
, 15 A
RIZ
. J. I
NT
L
& C
OMP
. L. 803, 849 (1998); and Rachel S. Taylor,
Better Late Than Never, in
I
NTERNATIONAL
AND
C
OMPARATIVE
C
RIMINAL
L
AW
S
ERIES,
A
CCOUNTABILITY FOR
A
TROCITIES
: N
ATIONAL AND
I
NTERNATIONAL
R
ESPONSES
237,
239 & 240 (Jane E. Stromseth ed., 2003).
2Laura A. Dickinson,
The Promise of Hybrid Courts
, 97 A
M
. J. I
NT
L
L. 295, 295 (2003).
3For a comprehensive overview of the ECCC,
see
John D. Ciorciari,
History and Politics behind the Khmer Rouge
Trials, in
O
N TRIAL
: T
HE
K
HMER
R
OUGE ACCOUNTABILITY
P
ROCESS
33 (John D. Ciorciari & Anne Heindel eds., 2009).
4The Law on the Establishment of the Extraordinary Chambers arts. 1 & 2, NS/RKM/1004/006 (2004).
5
Id
. art. 4.

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