Local rights groups and lawyers want the Khmer Rouge tribunal to include sexual violence among the “serious crimes” under its purview as the UN-backed court prepares to try four regime leaders.
By including such crimes, including rape, the court can ensure equal justice to victims, tribunal experts said at the opening of a two-day international conference on gender and justice.
The conference included participants from Cambodia, France, the US, Japan, Northern Ireland, Rwanda, India, Indonesia and others.
Sexual violence must be comprehensively addressed at the tribunal to ensure “the fight against impunity,” said Silke Studzinsky, a German lawyer who represents victims at the court.
The tribunal has so far failed to seriously investigate sexual violence and to set up an effective investigative team that included women, she said.
In the tribunal’s first case, against torture chief Duch, “the court failed to address cases of sexual violence,” she said. “The co-investigating judges failed to indict the defendants in Case 002 with rape and others acts of sexual violence outside of forced marriage.”
Japanese researcher Nakawa Kasumi, who is a professor at the University of Cambodia, said Khmer Rouge sexual violence included gang rape, forced sex after marriage and other acts. At least 200,000 forced marriages occurred under the regime, she said.
Tribunal spokesman Lars Olsen said Wednesday that rape and forced marriage had both been included in the original prosecution indictments for Case 002, which will try Nuon Chea, Khieu Samphan, Ieng Sary and Ieng Thirith for atrocity crimes.
However, “according to the investigating judges, rape was not a part of the [Communist Party of Kampuchea] policy,” Olsen said. “They said that rape occurred, but it was not a part of CPK policy, because CPK policy appeared to punish those who actually committed rape.”