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

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said To Be Improving

Experimental drugs have been tried on six people: three Westerners and now, three African pyhysicians More

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities residents rebuild their lives, but many say everyone is being treated with suspicion More

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

Girls learn to object; FGM practitioners face penalties from jail sentences to stiff fines 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.
Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improvingi
X
Carol Pearson
August 19, 2014 11:43 PM
The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.
Video

Video For Obama, Racial Violence is Personal Issue

The racial violence in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson is presenting U.S. President Barack Obama with an issue to which he has a deep personal connection. To many Americans, Obama's election as America's first black president marked a turning point in race relations in the United States, and Obama has made ending the violence a policy priority. On Monday he issued a new call for calm and understanding. Luis Ramirez reports from the White House.
Video

Video Clinton-Obama Relationship Could Impact 2016 Election

President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have a long and complicated relationship. That relationship took another turn recently when Clinton criticized the president’s foreign policy. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports there is renewed attention on the Clinton-Obama relationship as Hillary Clinton considers running for
Video

Video Iran Looks to Maintain Influence in Baghdad With New Shia PM

Washington and Tehran share the goal of stopping Syrian-based militants in Iraq. But experts say it's Iran, not the United States, that will most influence how the new government in Baghdad approaches internal reforms and the war in Syria. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.

AppleAndroid