PHNOM PENH —
The International Criminal Court in the Hague has issued a statement acknowledging the work of civil society organizations in helping maintain international standards of justice.
States must ultimately be responsible for protecting their populations from “grave impunity by upholding the system of international justice,” ICC officials said in a statement, following broad talks with international rights and development workers, as well as state parties. “Moreover, non-governmental organizations emphasized that states must support the full and meaningful engagement of victim communities in ICC proceedings.”
Long Panhavuth, who monitors the UN-backed Khmer Rouge tribunal for the Cambodia Justice Initiative and attended meetings in the Hague this week, told VOA Khmer that ICC officials also showed willingness to accept civil society organizations to be partners in primary investigations of abuse. “For instance, in this year, we’ve seen that civil society organizations are always able to have meetings and provide recommendations to the prosecutor of ICC and the president of ICC,” he said.
This is a new trend to help the ICC expand its scope of investigations, and it better recognizes the work of NGOs, he said.
In Cambodia, where rapid economic growth has meant increased tensions amid the poor, especially over land disputes, human rights violations remain a major issue.
In 2014 and the first quarter of 2015, some 60,000 people were affected by land grabs, according to a report issued in July by the International Federation for Human Rights. That report, submitted to the ICC, implicated senior government officials in widespread land disputes.
The ICC Assembly of State Parties will last for a week, and includes the presence of government officials from state parties to the court. Cambodian officials are not present at the assembly.
Chin Malin, a spokesman for the Ministry of Justice, told VOA Khmer the ministry tries to work with civil society “to serve the interests of citizens and solve problems for them.” “Thus, we’re always engaged with civil society in making laws, because civil society is the representative of citizens,” he said.
He was not concerned by the IFHR report, he said, and he declined to comment on the absence of Cambodia from talks at the ICC.