Nearly one month after the Khmer Rouge tribunal changed its rules for victim complainants, groups say they are concerned the UN-backed court has so far missed a key function.
The court was established to try senior leaders of the regime and to provide a measure of reconciliation to victims. But as it heads into its second trial, victim complainants have less access to court procedures.
It also remains unclear how the measures to improve “moral and collective reparations” will work, the Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee and the French-based International Federation for Human Rights said at a regional meeting of civil parties in Kampong Cham province Thursday.
The Sept. 17 amendments were aimed at reinforcing moral and collective reparation—which some victims found lacking in tribunal's first case, for Khmer Rouge prison chief Duch. The amendments also established coordination from the court's victim support unit and the lead lawyers for civil parties.
“We are satisfied with the changes, especially providing the opportunity for the [Victim Support Section] to raise funds for reparation,” Thun Saray, president of the rights group Adhoc, told those gathered in Kampong Cham. “But it is not yet clear in its functioning. And we have recommended responsibilities for the government for reparation. But this has not been considered.”
Civil society representatives submitted a recommendation to the UN-backed court asking for “fair and adequate” compensation for victims of the Khmer Rouge, whose four senior-most leaders are awaiting trial. They also asked that the court prepare for collective reparation even in the event that those leaders die before the trial is finished.
However, in a joint statement, both the Human Rights Action Committee and the International Federation for Human Rights said it was “regrettable” those recommendations were “not heard.”
“They take the question of the victims as preeminent,” said Reach Sambath, a spokesman for the tribunal. “We are all aware that the question of reparation is not easy to deal with, because there are many victims all over Cambodia.”
The current tribunal rules cannot currently be amended, he added. Meanwhile, the court is preparing for Case No. 002, to try leaders Nuon Chea, Khieu Samphan, Ieng Sary and Ieng Thirith for atrocity crimes, including genocide.
The question of reparation remained high on the agenda Thursday in Kampong Cham.
Long Panhavuth, a program officer for the Cambodia Justice Initiative, said reparations must honor and recognize victims and their suffering.
Rong Chhorng, head of the Victims Support Section of the court, said the unit and lead lawyers for civil parties would work with NGOs in the search for collective reparation.
“We must find the finances to achieve our goal,” he said Thursday.
Pen Saroeun, a civil party applicant for the upcoming trial, said he wanted reparations for the province of Svay Rieng.
“We need a stupa and a museum to store the remains that have been discovered since 1979,” he said. “They are still dispersed, and some of them have disappeared.”