News / Asia

Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge Tribunal Draws New Criticisms

Cambodian survivors of the Khmer Rouge's infamous Tuol Sleng prison, Bou Meng (L) and Chum Mey (R), sit at the home of prominent Cambodian artist Vann Nath in Phnom Penh, (File September 5, 2011).
Cambodian survivors of the Khmer Rouge's infamous Tuol Sleng prison, Bou Meng (L) and Chum Mey (R), sit at the home of prominent Cambodian artist Vann Nath in Phnom Penh, (File September 5, 2011).

In Cambodia, there is continuing controversy about the United Nations-backed court aimed at prosecuting members of the former Khmer Rouge government. The tribunal is the first of its kind to allow victims of specific crimes to participate.

Prosecution of Khmer Rouge members

German Judge Siegfried Blunk -- who was appointed by the United Nations -- and his Cambodian counterpart, You Bunleng, first drew criticism in April for closing down the investigation into the court’s third case against two senior Khmer Rouge military leaders suspected of thousands of deaths. Much of their international staff resigned after the case was shelved.

While Case Three is still under consideration by the court, judges are now determining which victims can participate as civil parties.

Applications rejected

The judges recently rejected the applications of at least three people seeking to participate as victims. One is a Cambodian woman whose husband suffered hard labor and was then executed by the Khmer Rouge.

In their rejection, the judges said her claimed psychological harm was “highly unlikely to be true”. They also defined the requirement of “direct” harm so narrowly as to exclude anyone other than the actual victim.

The applicant’s lawyer is Silke Studzinsky, who describes the ruling as outrageous. Speaking on Skype, Studzinsky explains why she has appealed.

“None of the reasons has any legal basis. The first reason expresses that our client is only an indirect victim and (is) therefore rejected,” Studzinsky said.

Studzinsky says that is “nonsense” since indirect victims were permitted in the tribunal’s first two cases - in fact her client was a civil party in those cases, which makes this rejection even harder to comprehend.

Reasoning called into question

Anne Heindel is a legal advisor with the genocide research organization in Phnom Penh called the Documentation Center of Cambodia.

She says the reasoning in the rejection of the civil party applicant failed to meet the minimum standards. "Again it’s just the convoluted legal reasoning. It’s a clearly outcome-driven process. It doesn’t meet the minimum standards of legal reasoning, and, honestly, it’s the worst reasoned order I’ve ever read," Heindel said.

Heindel accuses the judges of applying legal standards that do not fit with the court’s jurisprudence, or any other legal authority applying to civil parties.

She says it seems that they are trying to exclude anyone who was not a direct victim from taking part. “And, it’s clear and well established that immediate family members are recognized as victims and can participate in these circumstances," Heindel added. "So there’s no precedent anywhere that supports the legal reasoning of this decision.”

Case Three

More than 300 people applied to be accepted as civil parties in Case Three. The judges have refused to say how many of those applicants have been accepted or rejected.

Although the judges involved in the case have largely declined to defend their decisions, court officials say it is still premature to pass judgment on its work.

Lars Olsen is the legal communications officer for the tribunal. He spoke, earlier this month, at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand.

"The legacy and the final judgement over whether this court was worth the money, the efforts, the resources, will have to wait until we have seen the end of it," Lars said. "And, then, you know, basically what happened, what was the end game, and then was it all worth it. Until then, we are just speculating."

When asked about the latest controversy about the judges’ decisions, Olsen says those decisions are subject to appeal and that process is underway.

While the Khmer Rouge victims are working with the court, outside observers are appealing to the United Nations to investigate the work of the co-investigating judges.

Outside observers monitoring tribunal

The Open Society Justice Initiative, which has been monitoring the tribunal since its creation, has issued harsh criticisms of the decisions, saying they violate basic legal norms and call into question the independence and competence of the investigating judges.

Clair Duffy is a trial monitor for the Open Society Justice Initiative. She has called for the United Nations to investigate the court. “Most recently there’s been a whole string of decisions coming out of the Office of the Co-Investigating Judges that don’t meet basic requirements or adhere to international standards or even comply with the court’s own prior jurisprudence,” she stated.

This is the second time the OSJI has appealed to the United Nations for an investigation, but so far the U.N. has given no indication that it plans to do so.

Martin Nesirky, a spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, said by email that the United Nations expects the judicial process to be free from external interference. He wrote that the U.N. would not comment on issues under judicial consideration including the civil party appeals.

Nesirky did not reply to a question asking whether the U.N. appointed Judge Siegfried Blunk retains the support of Ban and U.N. headquarters.

You May Like

Arrested Football Officials Come Mainly From the Americas

US Justice Department alleges defendants participated in 24-year scheme to enrich themselves through corruption of international soccer More

Video Kenyans Lament Al-Shabab's Recruitment of Youths

VOA travels to Isiolo, where residents share their fears, struggles to get loved ones back from Somalia-based militant group More

This US Epidemic Keeps Getting Worse

One in 4 Americans suffers from this condition More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensionsi
X
May 26, 2015 11:11 PM
When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.

VOA Blogs